Eagles Return

When you have seen a bald eagle in flight, it will be an experience you will never forget!
Eagle in flight, photo by Peter Eartheart

Every Fall the Bald Eagles return to the Darrington area to feast on the spawned salmon in the rivers.  The average life span of a bald eagle is 20 years and a pair of eagles mate for life or until one of them dies.  Around February through March mating and nesting will occur. The nests, constructed of heavy branches and lined with grass, are built on sturdy trees or on high ledges.  The same nest may be used year after year and average about 8 feet across, however the largest nest recorded in the U.S. is 13 feet across.  The female will lay 1 to 4 eggs.

Immature bald eagles roosting in a maple tree, photo by Cal Thomas

Due to the cold weather during nesting season, once the first egg is laid it is kept warm by the parents and the 35 day incubation has begun so each eaglet will hatch on a different day.  The babies start their lives covered in a thick white down.  They grow very quickly fed on a steady rich diet of local salmon from the rivers and other smaller animals.  Soon you will begin to see them perched on edges of nest, their down turning in to blackish-brown feathers.  Sometimes the young bald eagle is confused with the Golden eagle which is much larger with a wing span of up to 7.5 feet
 Mature bald eagle, photo by Nels Rasmussen, D.C.
Once the young eagles have fledged, (acquiring the feathers necessary for flight), they take short flights always remaining close to the nest and will continue to do so while their primary feathers come out and they strengthen their wings.  The parents still provide the fledgling all of its food even though the bird is now equal in size.  The young eagle has until the end of summer to learn to hunt and other life skills.  After that they're on their own and the first winter is the most dangerous part of an eagle's life.  They will remain flying solo for 4 years when they attain the striking plumage of their parents with white feathers on head and tail,brilliant yellow bill and feet and blackish brown feathers.  Now the young eagle is eligible to mate.
 Eagles sunning themselves in a tree, notice the immature eagle to the right,
photo by Peter Earthart
Male and female have the same markings, however females are larger and stand about 3 feet tall. It is not uncommon to see bald eagles roosting in the trees along creeks and rivers, sometimes in groups or whole families especially while the salmon are spawning.  There are several good places to view the bald eagles in the Darrington area.  Have a look at our map for some of the best places to see bald eagles.

For great locations to see eagles, see the Snohomish County's Eagle Viewing Map