By: Leigh Edwards
Date: December 31, 1999
If Benjamin Franklin had his way, the Wild Turkey would be the symbol for the United States instead of the less intelligent Bald Eagle. Looks count, though. The Bald Eagle won, and Wild Turkey is the brand name for an American whiskey.
The Bald Eagle certainly looks more majestic than a turkey, but its behaviour may sometimes seem less appealing. It is an aggressive bird that feeds primarily on fish and has been known to steal from Ospreys and other birds. They also eat carrion (and sometimes small poodles).
Contaminated fish (mainly from PCB’s), hunting, poaching, and polluted habitats have caused a decline in world-wide populations. We are therefore lucky in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor to still see a large number of Bald Eagles, especially in Brackendale – the “winter home of the Bald Eagle.” Rafting trips on the Squamish River in December and January are a terrific way to see Bald Eagles as they congregate to feast on dead salmon.
Bald Eagles are much less common in Whistler but may be spotted in tree tops or flying high overhead. The reason they are unlikely to spend much time here (though there is one account of a pair staying for 2 months) is the lack of salmon. Bald Eagles rely heavily on salmon as their primary food source and time their travels to coincide with the salmon runs on different rivers on the coast.
This week’s spotting was a juvenile Bald Eagle at the south end of Alta Lake. Juveniles can be distinguished by their brownish colour and especially by an absence of the striking white head colouring that characterizes adults.