Bald Eagle: Fierce Majesty at Attention

The sight of a bald eagle stops anyone dead on their tracks.  It makes you just shiver a tad   –its razor sharp hooked beak, cold jewel eye staring from its snow white head rising from its muscular feathery dark bulk.  The eagle just looks as if it could rip you apart.  And it does  — large salmon fish,  rabbits and rodents.

Bald eagle calm but alert. Grouse Mountain, B.C. 2012. Photo by J.Chong
Bald eagle calm but alert. Grouse Mountain, B.C. 2012. Photo by J.Chong

Nevertheless, they are magnificent birds to behold – in flight or standing as a proud, watchful guard over its kingdom.

Riveting and Fearsome Bird of Prey

A bald eagle couple watches world from a high carved totem pole. Cypress St., Vancouver BC 2013. Photo by J. Becker
A bald eagle couple watches world from a high carved totem pole. Cypress St., Vancouver BC 2013. Photo by J. Becker

While living in Vancouver  and travelling along the Pacific west coast, I’ve seen bald eagles at least annually. Some years more often.  Bald eagles are riveting  to watch.

I’ve seen them wheeling slowly in the sky with their widespread wings overhead or just perched elegantly on top of a weathered totem pole.  Other times, a solo parent or two, are guarding eggs or a few eaglets in a large messy nest of twigs high up in a tree.  Usually the tree is well over 30 metres high.

My Eagle Sightings- City and Islands
Yes, bald eagles do have their favourite perch locations in the heart of Vancouver.  We’ve seen them not far from Granville Island, near Vanier Park or sitting on top the Mungo totem pole by the Maritime Museum.  One day I even hope I’ll spot, just like Jack did, a live bald eagle on top of a totem pole that includes eagle carving.

Eagle eatinig shellfish. Stanley Park, Vancouver BC 2012. Photo by J. Becker

Occasionally you might be lucky enough to spot them on high tree top  in Metro Vancouver’s parks or overlooking a vineyard on Vancouver Island while you plough through a delicious luncheon with wine.   A wonderful memory treat to treasure for vacation stories.

Eagle- Freedom, Nobility and Wisdom
Not surprisingly, the eagle occupies a high status in the pathenon of animal spirits across different North American native Indian groups.  Though there are differences among various Indian groups, how the eagle is revered and what it symbolizes, there are common characteristics of the eagle as  intermediary between the Spirit and man and as a manifestation of nobility, freedom and wisdom.

Perched high in cedar tree. North Vancouver by Pacific Spirit bike-pedesrial trail. 2013. Photo by J. Becker
Perched high in cedar tree. North Vancouver by Pacific Spirit bike-pedesrial trail. 2013. Photo by J. Becker

Soar in Our Imagination and Ecosystem
I was stunned to learn that an eagle can fly  speeds of 50-70 km./hr. and dive, though not straight vertically down, up to  120-160 km/hr.  The gripping power of an eagle can be up to 100 times more than a human being ( lbs. per square inch).  Its normal lifespan is 20 yrs.  They are monogamous  and breed with same partner unless the partner dies.

Eagle reflection by Columbia River. Revelstoke, BC 2015. Photo by J. Becker
Eagle reflection by Columbia River. Revelstoke, BC 2015. Photo by J. Becker

There is much to be intimidated but awestruck by the eagle soaring widely across the sky and waters. We hope for the eagle, lives long across North America –an emblematic talisman in our imagination and in our ecosystem.

This blog post is dedicated to my father who passed away in 2014. 

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36 Comments Add yours

  1. Dan In Iowa says:

    We have them here in Iowa too! There’s a river about a mile from my place and we’ve seen as many as 15 in one day. They follow the migrating geese. We’ve had a young one right in our yard! It takes them about 4 years to develop the bold colors. Meanwhile, they are close to the color of the red tailed hawks, but 3 times larger. And fly?? Holy cow are they fast!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I was surprised to spot them in the prairies –occasionally. Not as often as osprey birds though. They love salmon and of course, follow where the salmon swim inland from ocean to spawn, then die of exhaustion where they can easily find them. Sounds like the young one will be around your area for awhile? Hope it stays safe.

      Like

  2. timethief says:

    I see them soaring above my property Jean, as they still inhabit the d growth and second growth trees along the seashore and come inland to hunt for deer carcasses. One pair does their mating dance in our meadow in very early spring every year and their juveniles from the year before perch on the trees and watch. Bald headed Eagles and Golden Eagles are impressive due to their size and wingspan. They are good fishers but I admire Ravens and Turkey Vultures even more. They are first ones to the carcasses. The Ravens open it. Then the Turkey Vultures begin to feed and next the Eagles descend to drive them off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I didn’t know the ravens began digging in first. Where you are time thief, you have a veritable privilege of seeing all these bird interactions. I’ve seen the golden eagle several times in B.C. and Alberta. I never paid attention to them until I worked on the Golden Ears Bridge in suburb of vancouver. The name alludes the mountains and to the bird there. And great to see you flying here over to Cycle Write. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. timethief says:

        If you consider the shape of the Raven’s beak compared to the Eagle’s beak you will understand why every one waits for the third day when the Raven’s swoop down and slice the carcasses open. The gas escapes and then then Turkey Vultures perched in the trees and Ravens eat together until the Eagles arrive to drive them off.

        Eagles are primarily scavengers who help themselves to what the Ravens find first. If they can’t get enough to eat then they hunt. Ravens are by far smarter than other birds.They are quick thinkers and excellent flyers who can dip and dodge out of harm’s why while telling the Eagles exactly where to go.

        There is an interesting conversational exchange between the huge Eagles that kee-kee in such wimpy voices and the Ravens who appear to be fearless who SHOUT loudly. Ravens know how to imitate and intimidate all the other birds. They scold Eagles for refusing to share food and so do I. I have learned how to mimic Raven vocalizations form the pair who live on our land. We all squawk loudly together at the haughty Eagles who think they own all carcasses.

        By the fifth day the rodents and insects are gleaning leftovers from the bones. Nothing in nature goes to waste. Even the bones enrich the soil. That is why we never ever interfere with the natural cycle of life and death by burying deer bodies and it’s why we tell newcomers to just leave them be.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          Explains why the Raven is revered also in the panthenon of animal spirits for several aboriginal groups. I even contemplated whether or not to even include the eagle eating the shellfish in this blog post. We are protected from the lifecycle of the animal world.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. timethief says:

    re: They are monogamous and breed with same partner unless the partner dies.

    In fact, the vast majority of eagles are monogamous but not all are. I have seen a female (they are larger) drive a male out of her nest and raise her own 2 chicks by herself. She had a season alone without a brood and then two seasons later she accepted another mate. We watched the whole rejection and courtship scenarios. I suspect the first mate was elderly or ill and failing to feed the chicks. The second mate was excellent when it came to sharing the parenting load.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Thx for this eagle family vignette of which none of us here would witness to this level.

      Like

  4. Beautiful shots Jean! I have only ever seen one bald eagle in person. They are majestic creatures and have always symbolized freedom to me. The other two animals that symbolize freedom to me are the wolf and the horse, although these are more social than the eagle. Hey, what is the wingspan of an eagle? ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Between 6-8 ft. From American source: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/eagle/recovery/biologue.html Interesting you chose the wolf. The lone wolf..I haven’t taken time to know of its habits.

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      1. Wow that’s quite a span – Imagine one flying over your head! Yes. I’ve always been drawn to wolves. I had two shepherd/wolf dogs when I lived in BC Jean. They were beautiful animals.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          Pretty freaky to have a low-flying one. The photo of the 2 eagles facing one another on a very twiggy tree, was a photo taken by the Bow River here in Calgary.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Lani says:

    When I was vacationing around the San Juan Islands located off the coast of Washington, I remember seeing trees filled with bald eagles. I had never seen so many! It’s kind of strange when you see them all together – and it takes away a bit of the majestic-ness, if that makes any sense. It’s like watching them at a club or party. Yet, when they are alone, they seem so much more spiritual!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Well, we hope to make a trip just 50 km. north of Vancouver this early winter, where the whole huge club of them hang out annually for a few months starting in December or so. It must the imagine of solo flight / journey against the elements that makes them more spiritual, Lani.

      We have cycled-vacationed in San Juan Islands. At that time, we were more on the lookout for whales…which was not realistic since it was around July 4th holiday. Too many people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lani says:

        Good luck on your Vancouver pilgramage – wish I was you. Just fell in love with that city. If I could live anywhere in the world that’s where it would be.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Mabel Kwong says:

    That is amazing to hear that bald eagles are that strong – it’s gripping power much more than that of the average human. Perhaps this is how it perches on poles and thin ledges, and perhaps it’s also a mechanism of self-defence too coupled with the nails on the edges of its feet.

    Brilliant shots all round, Jean. The first one has got to my favourite. The feathers on its head are a stunning shade of white and I wonder how on earth do they stay that colour throughout their lives.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      You’re right, that magnificent white head of the bird which remains unsullied in many, many photos by others. Australia probably has a signature local bird that flies with inspiration?

      Like

      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        The cockatoo is a popular well-known bird here. I’m sure you’ve heard of it – the white bird with the yellow crest on top of its head and a short, curved grey beak. Tourists love taking photos with it at the zoo.

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          Actually I’m not familiar with the cockatoo. So it’s a native wild bird there in the forests?

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          1. Mabel Kwong says:

            The sulphur crested cockatoo is one of the more popular species, and it is generally found in the rainforests north of Australia.

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            1. Jean says:

              This might change the focus of your blog, but there would a lot to blog about the local/native creatures in Aussieland.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. In Europe we only got the relative of the bald eagle, the White-tailed eagle. However here it is not that rare anymore to see this bird and I have seen it often when going on bicycling tours. The White-tailed eagle was nearly gone to to hunting etc howver the population recovered rather well 🙂
    Great shots of the birds, I never get around to get my camera even ready to have a photo of them

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thx for responding, CCF with what is over there in Europe. I must credit my partner for most of these chance fantastic photos. Like you I see great birds overhead while cycling –hardly the best time for me to have a camera with zoom lens ready.

      Like

  8. Sue Slaght says:

    First my heartfelt sympathy on the loss of your Father last year. A lovely tribute to dedicate the post on these majestic birds to him. When we did the West Coast Trail the Bald eagles were frequent. Astounding to watch. A fantastic collection of photos you have shown us.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thx for your thoughts, Sue. It’s a post I’ve been wanting to compose and release at the right time.

      You’re tough, the West Coast Trail is a serious tough feat. Did you encounter much rain? Glad the bald eagles were one of the trip’s highlights. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sue Slaght says:

        Jean the WCT was one of my first big adventures when I turned 40. I went with four girlfriends. It was very tough for me but completing it was so fulfilling. By some miracle it did not rain a single drop during the week.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          That is incredible luck to have good weather on a difficult multi-day hike on that part of west coast.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Gorgeous photos, J. I always learn something here.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      I aim to entertain and maybe, provide something “new” to blog visitors. These photos probably are both entertain and also to learn since a lot of people haven’t seen a live bald eagle up close.

      Like

  10. diahannreyes says:

    I love how in communion you seem to be with this majestic creature. I can’t say I’ve ever given the bald eagle much thought until now. I am going to have to pay extra attention should one ever cross paths with me. Love the images.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Hope you’ll see a bald eagle one day. They tend to fly higher. My partner used a zoom lens to capture them far up on totem pole and trees (probably at least 5-8 storey high building height).

      Like

  11. There is a pair that roost for part of the year right on my bike route. They are inspiring.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      The photo of the pair on top of the totem pole (over 10 building stories high) is seen frequently in that area by a Vancouver bike route not far from downtown. They certainly make huge branchy/twiggy nests! Amazingly my partner has seen them flying around high up by the downtown highrise where we are in Vancouver..over 25 stories high. Yea, really at eye level.

      I’ve wondered how birds know not to fly into highrise homes with open windows and balcony doors.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. livelytwist says:

    My condolences on your father’s passing away, Jean.
    The eagle is indeed a magnificent bird. Used always, as far as I know, as a simile or metaphor for something positive, like, soar like an eagle. Your photos are beautiful.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thx for your kind thoughts, lively.
      It is for the positive metaphor that you expressed of what the eagle represents, that I chose to dedicate this post in memory…despite some fiercesome looking photos. Though my father was a disciplinarian (to a point), he was not a threatening type of person. More of a mediator.

      Liked by 1 person

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