I'm going to qualify the statement that titles this entry by saying that I've not yet had an opportunity to participate in an eagle count at Lake O' the Pines, although I've watched them here for several years. I always have an eye peeled and my camera ready when we go on the lake, and while there are so many interesting life forms to see, there is no doubt that the bald eagle is one of the most impressive. I believe our fascination may be two-pronged; not only is the eagle our national emblem, but this bird has only been off the endangered species list since 2007!
We've seen an abundance of young birds this year; they are more difficult to identify because they do not sport the white (bald) head, but their brown feathers are marbled with white. At a closer look, though, there is no mistaking the distinctive hooked beak, large head, and a way of soaring with broad wings out flat just like a board! We've watched them enough to notice a playful and energetic quality among the younger birds, and it is fascinating to see!
I've taken so many photos this year that I felt it necessary to do some research. According to eBird, the terms "juvenile" and "immature" are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. A juvenile is a very young bird that is still wearing the set of feathers it fledged with. As soon as it goes through its first molt, it's considered an immature until it reaches breeding maturity, which is at about four to five years of age.