adventures in nature

Klamath Basin report V – immature bald eagles

No, they weren’t misbehaving.

IMG_1719 v1-7

immature bald eagle (Basic I plumage – aka on its second year of life, likely approaching its 2nd birthday)

Bald eagles take five years before they grow their adult plumage, and in the early years many people can mistake them for golden eagles since they don’t acquire the characteristic white head and tail until adulthood.

One bird was perched on a branch very close to the road, and we spent a long period of time together at a very close distance. The bird preened and seemed relaxed (which let me know I wasn’t too close, something I’m always ultra-sensitive to – I try to always be far enough away that the wildlife feels comfortable and not threatened). This bird appears to be a young bird in its second year of life (now approaching its second birthday) – wearing what is referred to as a Basic I plumage (1st year, or hatch year is called a “juvenile,” second year is Basic I, then Basic II, Basic III and adult). The feather pattern for each year are variable but generally unique, combined with beak and eye coloring, and help to distinguish the age.

IMG_1699 v1

immature bald eagle (Basic I plumage) / Lower Klamath NWR

IMG_1727 v1-2

immature bald eagle (Basic I plumage) / Lower Klamath NWR

IMG_1718 v1

Nearby was another young bird, and this one had plumage that was different than the first – indicative of Basic II plumage (a bird in its third year of life).

IMG_1750 v1-2

immature bald eagle (Basic II plumage – a bird in its third year of life) – Lower Klamath NWR

IMG_1752 v1-2

immature bald eagle (Basic II plumage) – Lower Klamath NWR

IMG_1753 v1-2

immature bald eagle (Basic II plumage) / Lower Klamath NWR

Along this same part of the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, there was a solitary treeline that had almost 15 bald eagles in it – along with many red-tailed hawks and one golden eagle. A ranger I spoke to said that two weeks prior, he counted over 60 bald eagles (and a golden eagle) in the immediate area of the treeline! The density of birds makes it such that species that usually don’t tolerate each other in close proximity end up roosting right next to each other, as did many bald eagles and red-tails that I witnessed over the two days (though occasionally a red-tail would go after an eagle, just to remind it who was in charge).

A74A0114 v1

adult bald eagle perched next to a red-tailed hawk / Lower Klamath NWR

Being in an area like this really allows for a deep study into field identification of birds because there are so many species in the area.

A great time of year to visit is in February during the Winter Wings Festival – events are planned over a long weekend catering to raptor viewing, including guided trips in the Basin, education programs, vendor displays (optics mostly), and more. This year it takes place the weekend of February 11-14, 2016.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s