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March Feathers!

Welcome to March!  It’s been awhile, and I wanted to share a few new images of some of the eagles in the area lately- they are definitely active and it’s amazing seeing the juveniles as well as the adults.  Just the other day I was walking in the meadow and 4 eagles were in the trees just watching me.  “Yea, ok guys, you can have the meadow for now… I’ll just stroll somewhere else” lol!  I’ve got to admit, seeing these majestic birds literally outside our door will never get old.  For those of you who don’t know a lot about these birds, I’ll repost some interesting facts as well.

First, a note on telling eagles apart from another large resident of the area, the osprey.  If you are watching a bird in flight and you don’t immediately see that iconic head of white feathers (generally complete at ~4 years of age), it can be tough to confirm whether you are looking at an osprey or an eagle (or even another large bird of the area!).  Here are the four ‘tips to tell’ that should help out a bit:

Beaks: Eagles have yellow beaks; osprey have black beaks

Talons: Eagles have yellow talons while osprey have black/grey. Eagles also have visibly larger “giant” talons on their first and second toes, while osprey have four toes of equal size.

Size: Eagles are the clear winner here but honestly, it’s sometimes hard to tell when they are flying overhead. As one of the largest birds in North America, eagles have ~80 inch wingspan and can weigh 7-14 pounds.  Let’s think about that for a sec:  I’m 5’ 9” tall which is moderately tall for a woman, but that eagle still has a good 10” in wingspan on me! 

Wings: Here’s another interesting tidbit. Bald eagles usually soar with their wings almost flat. Other hawks, turkey vultures, etc. tend to have a slight ‘v shape’ to their wings in flight, and osprey have an easy to spot ‘kink’ in their wings- it looks like the letter ‘M’ when seen from the ground.

And now how about some crazy facts about these beautiful birds (because you know I love crazy animal facts!)

  • Eagles can see five basic colors to our three, and they can detect UV light. Actually, an eagle’s vision is almost 5 times better than ours.  For example, cones are light detecting cells that are sensitive to color, and both eagles and humans have them.  Eagles however, have one million cones per square millimeter of eye, to our measly 200,000. 
  • They can see with their eyes closed (I think my mother used to tell me she could do that too!). Besides their usual eyelids, bald eagles have a see-through eyelid called a nictitating membrane. They can close this eyelid to protect their eyes while their main eyelids remain open.
  • Eagles are monogamist, and generally mate for life. They also tend to return to the same nesting area year after year so if you find a pair, you’ll likely see them nest in that same area again and again. Also, their nests can be up to a ton in weight- yes, that’s up to 2000 pounds!
  • Eagles can fly up to 30 mph and can dive at speeds up to 100 mph. Fledging eagles learn to fly at about 3 months old.
  • Bald eagles develop the characteristic full white head and tail feathers by 4-6 years of age, can live up to 30 years in the wild, and as with many species, the males are smaller than females

So there you have it- a welcome to spring of sorts!  Eagles are gorgeous, strong, truly amazing, and the sight of them soaring above will never get old- Hope you enjoy!

(all images by patrice eberline)

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