Everyone in Evergreen has been excited about the two bald eagles that have been hanging out in a dead tree near Evergreen Lake for the past week. I have had several people call me, and others have brought me photographs of the birds. They are apparently two adult bald eagles, easily recognized by their size, dark bodies, white head and tail.
Bald eagles, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, are not actually bald but are so named due to the fact that their heads are fully feathered in white, which gives the appearance of being glistening bald at a distance. Were they not feathered at all, the head would appear to be small and red.
Their head feathers are long and can be slightly lifted at times to give the appearance of a slight crest. They are all brown in juvenile plumage but acquire a full white head and tail by the time they are about 3 years old.
Eagles have especially long brood wings, which are held quite flat when soaring. That is obviously different than other hawks and raptors.
I find it difficult to explain what these two birds are doing at Evergreen Lake in June. Bald eagles nest very early in the spring. They are also believe to mate for life. This means they stay together as long as they both are alive. However, if one of the pair dies, the remaining one will find a new mate. They nest a bit earlier down lower and south of us.
It is possible that these birds are a pair that have finished nesting ad are now just wandering about for the remainder of the summer, or they could be two birds that each somehow lost its mate and is seeking a new one to take its place. Young of the year would not have reached breeding maturity and would not have white heads.
At one time, bald eagles declined drastically in the eastern United States, but in recent years, eagles have done well and their population has increased to what it was nearly 50 years ago. They are no longer on the endangered species list and can be found in most of their old haunts.
Why at Evergreen Lake? It has lots of fish. Bald eagles are fish eaters. Fish are their favorite food, and they will eat it even after it has reached a point of carrion. Since Evergreen Lake is regularly fished, there are often dead fish and/or entrails along the shore.
Will these two birds become a pair and stay to nest? Probably not. Eagles are very protective of their young and dive-bomb to fight anything that comes near their young. Therefore, I feel that Evergreen Lake has too many people around for a pair of eagles to stay and nest. However, I may be wrong.
With all of the good old nest sites being reused by eagles, they may be having trouble finding new nest sites. The food supply is there, and they may just surprise me. If they decide to build a nest, everyone will soon see it for an eagle nest is huge. It often takes over the whole top of a tree.
It is built of big sticks, then smaller sticks and a cup-shaped nest in the center of the flat top is large enough for the bird to flatten out during incubation, so she can scarcely be seen. This actual nest is often more than 2 feet across and made of coarse grasses, weeds and mosses.
After the eggs hatch, the young are in the nest for some time, but most nesting is over by the end of May. A full-grown bald eagle will perch 30-plus inches high and have an 80-inch wing span. They are big birds and can be found over much of North America. Southern birds average about 10 percent smaller than those of the north.
They have been the symbol of the United States for many years and also are the symbol of other entities such as France and Rome.
To quote from an old book on “Our Birds in Their Haunts” by J. Hibbert Langille, “In repose or in motion, gracefulness combined with strength is expressed to perfection.”