A highlight on many of our Ayers Creek paddles is a close up view of the Bald Eagles. We are fortunate to have a healthy population of Eagles here on the creek and enjoy watching them progress from noisy hatchlings to fully mature majestic birds. The mature Bald Eagle is easy to spot with their full white heads and tails, dark brown bodies and wings, and bright yellow legs and bills. Immature birds have mostly dark heads and tails with mottled brown and white wings and bodies. Young birds attain adult plumage in about five years. Bald Eagles live a long time, with recorded longevity of 28 years in the wild and 36 years in captivity.
The Bald Eagle prefers a diet of fish, but is opportunistic and will eat a wide variety of foods based on availability. They eat birds, reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals. They take their prey live, fresh, or as carrion. The Bald Eagle is known to harass other birds, such as the Osprey, to steal their fish. This behavior contributed to Benjamin Franklin’s characterization of the Bald Eagle as being of ‘bad moral character’.
If you have paddled Ayers Creek towards the salt marshes you may have spotted one of the bald eagle nests along the route. Bald Eagles typically nest in sturdy conifers that protrude above the canopy but below the crown of the tree. They build some of the largest nest of all birds, 5 to 6 feet in diameter and 2 to 4 feet tall. Both sexes bring materials to the nest, but the female does most of the placement. Nests can take up to three months to build, and may be reused year after year.
If you’d like to get a close up view of the Bald Eagle in action come on out and paddle at Ayers Creek.
For more information on the bald eagle and all the birds on the creek check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.