Autumn Eagle Watching

When you have seen a bald eagle in flight
 it will be an experience you will never forget.
Every Fall the Bald Eagles return to the Darrington area to feast on the spawned salmon in the rivers.  The average life span of a bald eagle is 20 years and a pair of eagles mate for life or until one of them dies.  Around February through March mating and nesting will occur. The nests, constructed of heavy branches and lined with grass, are built on sturdy trees or on high ledges.  The same nest may be used year after year and average about 8 feet across, however the largest nest recorded in the U.S. is 13 feet across.  The female will lay 1 to 4 eggs.
Eagle in flight, photo by Cal Thomas 


Due to the cold weather during nesting season, once the first egg is laid it is kept warm by the parents and the 45 day incubation has begun so each chick will hatch on a different day.  The baby chicks start their lives covered in a thick white down.  They grow very quickly fed on a steady rich diet of local salmon from the rivers and other smaller animals.  Soon you will begin to see them perched on edges of nest, their down turning in to blackish-brown feathers.  Sometimes the young bald eagle is confused with the Golden eagle which is much larger with a wing span of up to 7.5 feet.
 Immature bald eagles roosting in the trees,
 photo by Cal Thomas

It will take about one year for the feathers to change into the striking colors of the adults.  The markings of the adult bald eagle is White feathers on the head and tail, bright yellow bill and feet, and blackish-brown breast, back and wings.  Male and female have the same markings, however females are larger and stand about 3 feet tall.
Mature bald eagle, photo by Nels Rasmussen 

It is not uncommon to see bald eagles roosting in the trees along creeks and rivers, sometimes in groups or whole families especialy while the salmon are spawning.  There are several good places to view the bald eagles in the Darrington area.  Have a look at our map for some of the best places to see bald eagles.

For great locations to see eagles, see our Eagle Viewing Map. 
Eagles sunning themselves in a tree, notice the young imature eagle to the right, 
photo by Peter Eartheart

Written by Martha Rasmussen
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