Every Winter, the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges are home to the largest wintering population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. Some 500 birds migrate here in an average year, beginning their arrival in November. January and February offer the best viewing at the Refuges.
The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is the only eagle unique to North America. The female tends to be slightly larger than the male–with her wingspan reaching an impressive 90 inches. Baldies mate for life and produce a clutch of 1 to 3 eggs, which hatch in about 35 days. The bald eagle’s nest is no small affair. The largest nest on record measured 9.5 feet (3 meters) across and 20 feet (6 meters) high, and weighed more than two tons. Juveniles develop their characteristic adult plumage at around five years of age. A bald eagle in the wild can live up to 28 years. While fish generally make up the majority of its diet, eagles are opportunists–waterfowl are the predominant food source at the Klamath Refuges and constitute the bulk of the raptor’s diet here.
It is estimated that in the 1700’s, North America boasted a population of some 300,000 to 500,000 bald eagles. For decades, the eagles were hunted for sport and to protect fishing grounds. The use of DDT after World War II nearly decimated our national symbol, until the EPA banned the highly toxic insecticide in 1972. Eagle populations have since rebounded significantly, and on June 28, 2007, the Department of the Interior removed the bald eagle from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Today some 70,000 birds populate the continent–with more than half of those residing in Alaska. The bald eagle, however, is still protected by both the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
For more information on the current status of the bald eagles at Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, or to reserve a photo blind, visit their website at: http://www.fws.gov/klamathbasinrefuges/
Also, see my article, Klamath National Wildlife Refuges Offer World-Class Photo-Ops.
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Until next time, happy image-making…