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    Bald Eagles in BC

    Apex Bird Predators of Coastal British Columbia

    March 5th, 2023


    Scan the tops of the tallest trees near aquatic habitats in coastal BC and you’re bound to spot a bald eagle or two. First things first; despite their name, bald eagles aren’t actually bald. The name derives from an old latin name meaning “white-headed sea eagle”. Bald eagles are one of the largest and most powerful birds in North America, and they are known for ruling the skies as an apex predator.


    Bald eagles have mastered the art of aviation. Using thermal air currents, they can reach soaring speeds of up to 70 kilometres an hour. When it comes to diving, they move twice as fast, plummeting up to 160 kilometres per hour. We tend to spot them when they are coasting low, but they can reach heights of up to 10,000 feet. If a bald eagle loses a feather from one wing, it will shed a feather on the other side to maintain its balance in flight. The flight technique and precision is impeccable.

    Bald Eagle on Moss-Covered Rock Feeding on Fish Carcass

    Bald Eagle Feeding on Fish Carcass


    The common saying ‘eagle eye’ nods to the bald eagle’s incredible eyesight. They boast both binocular and peripheral capabilities with the capacity to see across a 3 kilometer radius. Bald eagles have two fovea in each eye allowing them to focus their vision in two areas at once: the horizontal plane and the ground. The eyesight of the bald eagle is 4-7 times better than humans, so when you see them twisting their necks from one side to another, you can bet they see something we don’t.

    Razor sharp vision is just one tool in this apex predator’s toolkit. At nearly 1 metre tall with a wingspan of over 2 metres, the sheer size of these birds is intimidating. Bald eagles have strong hooked beaks that allow them to pierce through prey with ease. They also have extra large talons with nearly 10 times the gripping power than that of humans. Bald eagles have a pretty flexible diet. While they prefer fresh fish, they also scavenge for remains, steal from other birds (notoriously osprey), and hunt mammalian prey like rabbits, beavers and raccoons. One bald eagle was famously recorded gripping a 15 pound mule deer in the air!



    While nearly 90% of bird species are monogamous, meaning they have just one mate at a time, the bald eagle is one of few that actually mates for life. One of the most spectacular birding sights to witness is bald eagles engaging in a series of acrobatic moves while soaring and plummeting through the air together. It’s part of a mesmerizing display of courtship rituals between male and female as they assess their compatibility and commitment during mating season. It’s the ultimate trust fall.

    Beyond mating for life, bald eagles often nest for life too. Nests live toward the tops of tall trees, usually with a waterfront view to scan the horizon for prey. Mates typically use the same nest year after year, though they may build multiple within the area. Both the male and female scour the landscape for building materials, though the female will often take the lead on arranging them. Nests contain an array of supplies from large sticks to moss, grass, lichens, seaweed and sod. In the first year, like a human settling into a new home, the nest starts out with a modest foundation. Before long, they grow into a thick and burly abode. Nests are known to reach 13 feet deep by 8 feet wide, with weight comparable to a small car!

    When it comes to mating and nesting — eagles spend a lifetime working together to get the balance just right. Romance or practicality, there’s something to glean from the steadfast commitment of bald eagles finding their way in the wild.

    Eagle Flying Low Over Water with Fish in Talons

    Photo by guest Shannon Miyazaki


    Bald eagles are widely distributed across BC, though most commonly live near estuaries, coastal fjords, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. On the mainland, one of the most popular viewing spots is Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park in Squamish. Off the coast, you’re likely to see them in areas surrounding Vancouver Island and smaller islands of the Salish Sea. It’s common to see them while on any of our kayaking tours. Your first indicator will be an enthusiastic kayak guide pointing skyward as they proceed to tell you everything they know about bald eagles. 

    Posted in Wildlife

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