Towards the end of December, by sheer luck I was in the right place at the right time (and carrying a camera), to be treated to a brief visit by some Bald Eagles, who appeared in a nearby stand of suburban riverfront pines. Blending into the brown of tree limbs, they weren't noticable until one approached from over the river, landed next to another, and screamed at the second in an earsplitting display of some uncertain meaning.
Courtship? Perhaps, because December in Southeast Virginia seems to be the eagle's month for courting and nest-building. If that was the case here, then it appeared that the arriving bird 'got the brush-off'. Because shortly after the first eagle loudly announced itself, the second eagle moved away to another tree...or maybe it was just playing hard to get.
As the first adult kept persistently vocalizing, the the second adult kept turning it's head away and offering the cold shoulder...then I noticed a third large shape, farther back in the trees and shadows.
The shadowy view through the lens could only suggest this was an immature Bald Eagle, (judging from the overall visible coloring and the great size of the beak), which I had to compare with other photos for confirmation. The amount of coloring visible on this young ones beak suggests it's likely to be three years old. Golden Eagles do visit the Mid-Atlantic region in winter, potentially leading to cases of mistaken identity, but the difference in beak size and coloring is distinctive. [See the Cornell link below to compare Golden and Bald Eagles] In the case of the Bald Eagle the beak gains color as the immature eagle ages, and will not be fully yellow until maturity at approximately 5 years of age, when the head and tail also show the distinctive white that gives the bird it's name.
FYI: facts from the American Bald Eagle Foundation
- In old English, 'Bald' meant 'White'.
- There is a gradual increase in size and weight in resident eagles from South to North.
- Average wingspan and weight for a Northern male- 6 ft 8 inches and 9.5 lbs.
- Average wingspan and weight for a Northern female - 7 ft 3 inches and 11.5 lbs.
In reading up on Bald Eagle identification and habits, I've come across some links that may be useful to anyone who enjoys and appreciates wildlife:
CCB and VaEagles - The Center for Conservation Biology, located at the 'College of William and Mary', in Williamsburg, Virginia. Sites with links to live nest cameras, tracking and research throughout the Chesapeake Bay region, and a wealth of general information.
EagleCam - A live camera feed, from the Norfolk Botanical Garden nest-site, (Norfolk, Virginia), with multiple partners.
Wildlife Tracking- A Multi-state, multi-organizational project, to track both the Bald and Golden Eagles of the Chesapeake Bay using satellite transmitters; in a service provided by 'SeaTurtle.Org'.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Identification, facts and life history of the Bald Eagle (including calls).
Photograhing Birds- A great 'How-To' photography guide, also by the the Cornell Lab.
- Foto-Friday is a regular feature of The Newsvine Photograpers group -
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