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.
Bald eagles sit at the top of the food chain, and while the mortality rate for first year birds is over 50%, they may live in the wild to be thirty years of age! These birds can lift about four pounds, can fly at speeds of 30 to 35 miles per hour, and are monogomous by nature. Once paired, eagles remain together until one dies. They weigh from 10 to 14 pounds, with a wingspan of 72 to 90 inches. The female birds range in size from 35 to 37 inches, slightly larger than that of the male birds. I was interested to learn this, as I've always instinctively had the larger bird in a pair pegged in my mind as a male, and the opposite is true! Isn't education a wonderful thing?
Photos of the younger eagles may not be as impressive or awe-inspiring as the mature bird photos are, but I believe the sighting of so many indicate an encouraging trend for our area. We've apparently done something right by realizing in time the danger that this beautiful creature was facing, and by taking steps in the right direction to allow these birds to flourish and thrive.
So, when you're outside, keep your eyes to the sky and you just may see one - or, who knows, you may see something else wonderful! We are so fortunate to have such an abundantly rich and varied habitat surrounding us; as we spread awareness and appreciation by reporting and communicating what we see, this will only get better!
I am so glad you have joined us here. I look forward to more articles and, of course, your beautiful photographs.