Updated: Feb 27
I saw my first bald eagle in July 1988 while on a guided raft trip down the Snake River in Wyoming. My young family & I were on a 3-week road trip adventure to relocate from Chicago to Olympia. Our rafting guide pointed to a “spec” in the sky and commented that less than 1% of the American population has ever seen a bald eagle in the wild. There began my infatuation and respect for our nation’s symbolic bird. Little did I know then that 30 years later I would watch eagles soar daily from the comfort of our home on Long Lake, up close, and personal.
Long Lake currently provides desirable eagle habitat with at least 3 nests used by pairs of this magnificent bird. The nests are easily visible from the water along less developed shoreline areas; one located near the outflow area at the far north end of the lake, and then two more on the Carpenters Resort Road property near the northeast side of the channel connecting the north and south basins. Eagles tend to reuse the same nest year after year, but some pairs shift between alternative nests. Habitat conditions determine the number of pairs supported by our eagle territory. Therefore, the three local nests do not necessarily equate to three pairs in the territory. That said, I personally observed six eagles over the lake at the same time.
Click here to watch a fascinating 6-minute eagle-cam video documenting the cycle of an eagle family in Florida.
Some interesting bald eagle facts include but are certainly not limited to:
· can live for nearly four decades in the wild.
· fish comprise about 70 to 90% of the diet, but also feed on ducks, geese, or small animals, adults consuming on average about .6 and 1 pound of food per day.
· average weight is 10.7 lbs. in northern latitudes.
· Eagles can carry up to half of their own weight.
· wingspans range from 5’ 9” in smaller males to 7’ 6” in larger females, with an average wingspan of 6’ 7”, nearly 2 feet taller than an average adult human.
· A large Eagle nest is known as an Aerie; typically, 4.9-5.9 ft in diameter and 2.3-4 ft deep.
· Usually mate for life and produce 1-3 eggs per year.
· Average migratory flight/soaring speed is 31.06 mph and up to 75 mph when “snatching” prey
· Are very good swimmers. Occasionally an eagle “misjudges” and latches into a fish too heavy/large for it to fly with, so they then may swim quite a distance to shore and eat the fish there.
· Eggs hatch after about 35 days of incubation, mostly by the female.
· baby eagles stay in the nest between 8 to 14 weeks after hatching.
Bald eagles represent one of our nation’s most successful wildlife protection and restoration programs. By the year 1963, 18 years after DDT’s introduction to the U.S., the eagle population plummeted to only 487 pairs in the lower 48 states. Together with the impact of the Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1966, and after pressure on Congress from the scientific and environmental movements in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency banned DDT in 1972. The main reason was to prevent the potential negative impacts of DDT on people. The effect of DDT on the bald eagle and other wildlife was a secondary but welcomed benefit.
The eagle population steadily increased and in 2007, the bald eagle was officially declared a
recovered species and removed from the list of threatened and endangered species. Population growth between 1966 and 2013 was 5.37% annually, and modeling indicates that population growth across the range is projected to continue for another 10 to 20 years until the total population stabilizes at around 228,000 birds. The recovery from the brink of extinction was truly one of the most remarkable national and international conservation achievements.
Long Lake community residents are truly blessed. Together with numerous other waterfowl and feathered friends, eagles provide entertainment and wonder. However, threats to the eagle persist and are likely to stay, including lead poisoning, and collision with power lines and wind turbines. Here around the lake, we can do our part by giving eagles a wide berth, checking permit requirements for activities such as removing an eagle nest or possessing eagle feathers, and reporting injured or dead bald eagles by calling the USFWS office in Redmond (425-883-8122) as soon as possible.
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