If you measure this shot not by the imperfect light and distance but by the thrill it was to witness this powerful creature screech and flutter and clamp desperate talons to stand upright on its vertical perch, you might be able to put yourself for a moment in my blessed shoes. This is a BIG bird, up to 7 1/2-foot wing spread, and up to 14 pounds at maturity. Which is key here because this is an immature bald eagle. Not a golden. Golden eagle youngsters have feathers down onto their feet. Bald youngsters have bald feet.
What I am less clear about is why this young eagle is hanging out in the middle of mating territory of a resident pair. This eagle is an interloper. No wonder there is noise all day and all night.
We started hearing the dramatic screeches of the neighborhood's nest-building balds on a walk up the hill to the grocery store one Saturday morning a few weeks ago. I remembered similar sounds from inside our home a few days prior, I realized in retrospect. In the 100-foot Douglas Fir nearest to us, was a stuck and frustrated bird that eventually emerged with a stick longer than it was, and headed toward the Willamette River. We spotted it again with its mate a few days later, the pair perched in their gigantic nest topping another tall fir with, this one with a riverfront view.
Researchers from the Center for Conservation Biology at William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA (full article here) study bald eagles, and have identified what they are calling a new normal for balds. Many eagles they have found are, in human terms, good spouses and parents--loyal to their mates and good providers. But all eagles aren't the same. There are eagles that cheat on their mates and birds that seem to want to hang around and loaf.
Bryan Watts, the director of the Center for Conservation Biology, says that "it seems that as the eagle population goes up, the famous monogamous nature of the birds begins to go down."