Bald Eagle is a familiar symbol of wilderness majesty. It is not
bald, of course, in the sense that it's head is bare. It has been
claimed that the term bald is an archaic reference to "white-headed".
Other authorities believe that it refers to the faint streaking
of the darker feather shafts on the bird's head. If it is not bald,
neither is it a true eagle. It belongs to the family known as sea-eagles,
of which it is the only regularly-occurring member in North America.
Sea-eagles have larger heads and heavier bills than the typical
eagles, like the Golden Eagle. As
you might expect, Bald Eagles eat a lot of fish, and they don't
mind if that fish is not fresh. This most regal of symbols makes
a very nice living from carrion, and from stealing the prey of other
raptors like Ospreys. Bald Eagles also eat many seabirds, some of
which are harried into exhaustion as they dive repeatedly to escape
the eagle's persistent stoops.
the hunting methods of bald eagles are a little less than glamorous,
these birds are exemplary parents to their young. They will mate
for life, and always return to the same nesting site year after
These nests can become huge accumulations of branches, dirt, and
the remains of prey. Most nests produce two young, which are full-grown
when they leave the nest.
require five or six years to acquire their full adult plumage. Juvenile
birds are dark brown, and are often assumed to be Golden Eagles.
Second and third year birds show considerable white on their undersides,
but by the fourth year, the white of the head and tail are beginning
to show. As in most birds of prey, females are larger than males,
and may reach a weight of over five kilograms, carried by a wingspan
of two meters or more.
Eagles may be seen at any time of the year, but they often gather
in large numbers when food is plentiful. In the spring, when the
herring spawn, the eagles join thousands of seabirds, and marine
mammals, off the east coast of Vancouver Island. In the fall and
winter, they move to the salmon streams to feed on the spawned-out
fish. The Brackendale Eagle Reserve, just north of Squamish on the
BC mainland, has one of the highest concentrations of bald eagles
in the world.
From early November through March, thousands of bald eagles gather
along the gravel shores of the Squamish, Cheakamus and Mamquam rivers
to feast on the eggs and carcasses of spawned-out salmon. In 1994,
Squamish set the world record with an astounding 3,766 eagles counted
in one day! The month-long Brackendale Winter Eagle Festival is
held in January, drawing crowds from around the world.
At Goldstream Provincial Park, north of Victoria, the Eagle Extravaganza
celebrates the big birds as they gather in the hundreds to feed
on the carcasses of salmon that have spawned and died.