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Birding: Bald Eagles

Symbolized as the National bird of the United States in 1782, Bald Eagles are unique to North America and they can be found in abundance in many areas of the Cascade Loop throughout the year. 

Adult vs. Juvenile Bald Eagles

Family of Bald Eagles

Adults are easily identified by their white heads and black feathers. Juvenile eagle coloring is variations of all black, to mottled white and black feathers, but they don't acquire a white head and tail until adulthood, in their fifth year. As they near adulthood they develop mottled coloration, especially their heads.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between juvenile bald eagles, and Golden eagles -- the easiest way is to look at their legs and the nape of the neck. The feathers on a Golden eagle's neck are a bronze/golden color. The legs of a Golden are feathered all the way to their feet, but a Bald eagle's legs are visible above their talons. 

For more on identifying Raptors on the Cascade Loop - click here

Pictured - adult bald eagles with juveniles. Juveniles whose white heads have black spots are likely 3-4 years old. (Freund's Photography)

Bald Eagle wingspan

The size of these majestic birds makes them easy to spot, especially during winter in leafless trees. Standing on a branch, they are over three feet tall, and in flight, their wingspan can be as much as eight feet.

Bald eagles fighting over fish

One of the Bald Eagle's favorite meals is salmon, and they often prey on other creatures catches- they have been known to steal from the talons of Osprey. One of the most common places to find these massive birds is on tree branches overlooking the ocean or a river. 

In winter, they can also be seen feasting on roadkill near highways. Look for congregations of crows - in the snow they can be a great clue to the presence of a carcass, and eagles.

Bald eagle in the river

Bald Eagles migrate south from Alaska during the winter, and they can be found in large numbers along river valleys of the Cascade Loop in January and February. Look in the tree tops as you travel through the Skagit Valley, Wenatchee River Valley and the Methow Valley. 

The Columbia River is also a frequent location where they are spotted year round, often soaring along the rocky hillside that follow highway 97A.