Fish for Breakfast...

Who eats fish for breakfast at HCWF? Bald Eagles!

Chances are, if you have been involved at Hoffler Creek Wildlife Foundation for a while, you have heard of the Regal Eagles of Hoffler Creek.  Unfortunately, the pair of eagles that previously settled at Hoffler Creek was not successful. They have since left and their nest is gone.

But all is not lost!  A juvenile bald eagle has been sighted at Hoffler Creek several times in the last few months.  Last week, I (Programs Director Kirsten), was walking along the Kids Trail, minding my own business when I interrupted his (or her!). He (or she!) was not at all happy about it and almost got revenge by coming very close to dropping a fishy breakfast on my head.  This wonderful encounter left me curious to learn and share more about bald eagles.

Eagles eat mostly fish, but they will also harass other birds for food, eat small rodents and birds, and scavenge.

Eagles eat mostly fish, but they will also harass other birds for food, eat small rodents and birds, and scavenge.

Bald eagles mate for life and can live up to 30 years in the wild.  Nesting pairs will often use the same nest year after year, though they do not always breed every year.  If one mate dies the other eagle will usually take a second mate. A fully grown eagle can be up to 3 tall and have a wingspan of 7.5 feet.It takes a while, however, for an eagle to reach maturity.  The juvenile eagle I saw last week could be several years old, but not yet ready to mate.  Young eagles do not reach maturity until the ages of 4 or 5 which is when their distinctive white head feathers grow in, signaling that they are ready to mate.  Eagles have amazing sight.  The human norm for sight is 20/20, but an eagle can see at 20/5.  This means that an object a human would see clearly at 5 feet is seen by an eagle clearly at 20 feet. 

The bald eagles has been the emblem of the United States since 1782. It was once endangered by indiscriminate hunting and pesticide use.  In 1963 there were fewer than 500 nesting eagles in the US.  Through concentrated conservation and legislation eagle populations are now flourishing where they were once struggling.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are now over 9,000 nesting eagles in the US. 

Maybe in 3 or 4 years the juvenile eagle who nearly dropped breakfast on me will settle down at Hoffler Creek.  But if not,  it is nice to know that eagles are doing well and are thriving in Hampton Roads. 

 

Young eagles have mottled white and brown feathers.  The dark body and white head feathers grown in once they reach maturity.

Young eagles have mottled white and brown feathers.  The dark body and white head feathers grown in once they reach maturity.

Sources:

http://www.livescience.com/18658-humans-eagle-vision.html

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/bald_eagle/id

http://www.baldeagleinfo.com/eagle/eagle4.html

http://www.fws.gov/midwest/eagle/recovery/biologue.html