The folks in the Riverwalk Bird Club don't just watch birds. The group includes some excellent photographers.
Nooga.com Outdoors is happy to share their great photos by featuring a Bird of the Week.
This week, we feature the bald eagle, taken by Charles Dean on the Hiwassee River.
The bald eagle has been the national emblem of the United States since 1782 and a spiritual symbol for native people for far longer than that. These regal birds aren’t really bald, but their white-feathered heads gleam in contrast to their chocolate-brown body and wings. Once endangered by pesticides, bald eagles have flourished under protection.
—Rather than do their own fishing, bald eagles often go after other creatures’ catches. A bald eagle will harass a hunting osprey until the smaller raptor drops its prey in midair, where the eagle swoops it up. A bald eagle may even snatch a fish directly out of an osprey’s talons. Fishing mammals (even people sometimes) can also lose prey to bald eagle piracy.
—Had Benjamin Franklin prevailed, the U.S. emblem might have been the wild turkey. In 1784, Franklin disparaged the national bird’s thieving tendencies and its vulnerability to harassment by small birds. "For my own part,” he wrote, “I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. … Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District.”
—Bald eagles suffered in the March 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska. An estimated 247 bald eagles died from oil exposure, and population levels in the region decreased by almost 4 percent the following year. The local population returned to pre-spill levels by 1995.
—Sometimes even the national bird has to cut loose. Bald eagles have been known to play with plastic bottles and other objects pressed into service as toys. One observer witnessed six bald eagles passing sticks to each other in midair.
—The largest bald eagle nest on record, in St. Petersburg, Fla., was 2.9 meters in diameter and 6.1 meters tall. Another famous nest—in Vermilion, Ohio—was shaped like a wine glass and weighed almost two metric tons. It was used for 34 years until the tree blew down.
—Immature bald eagles spend the first four years of their lives in nomadic exploration of vast territories and can fly hundreds of miles per day. Some young birds from Florida have wandered north as far as Michigan, and birds from California have reached Alaska.
—Bald eagles can live a long time, with a longevity record of 28 years in the wild and 36 years in captivity.
—Bald eagles occasionally hunt cooperatively, with one individual flushing prey toward another.
This information is courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.