Wildlife Corner : Baby on Board

By Mike Flunker, Editor-in-Chief

With a lot of chatter, some of our resident bald eagles are hard at work along Statter Harbor. If you’re down at the Anderson Building, look out to the right as you enter the building. You’ll see a pair of eagles currently nest building, or maybe even brooding an egg by the time of reading. 

Bald eagles are found all across North America wherever unfrozen water can be found. There are an estimated 30,000 bald eagles in Alaska, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. If all goes well, one or two more will join that number thanks to the dedicated parents down by the harbor. 

Female bald eagles are generally larger than males, a size trend found in many other birds and reptiles. Creating an egg takes a lot of energy! In colder environments or in long-lived animals like eagles, albatross, and crocodiles, a few extra pounds worth of energy can do a lot to ensure the survival of offspring. Bald eagles often return to the same nest site every year, so continued yearly maintenance and building of the nest can result in quite large structures! 

By late April, nest building is concluded and between one and three eggs are laid. This may happen earlier or later depending on the individual bird, the nest site, and the environment around them. Eggs are incubated for 35 days. When there are siblings, the rivalry is intense and often the smaller and weaker siblings are killed or starved by their older siblings. Bald eagles are fully grown and ready to leave the nest around 75 days after hatching. 

Juvenile bald eagles are brown and mottled in coloration, lacking the white head and tail of the adults. They’ll remain this way for four or five years before getting their adult plumage. 

When around actively nesting birds, it’s important to keep your distance. Utilize a telephoto lens or binoculars for safe viewing, and refrain from causing any loud disturbances. Brooding eggs is a full-time job for prospective eagle parents.

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