Nature Speak - Bald eagles 

By Melanie Cochrane,

Whistler Naturalists

Although bald eagles can occasionally be seen year-round, it is primarily during the winter months that they make their appearances most prominent to the Sea-To-Sky Corridor.

By late November the first early-birds can be seen picking out good roosts used in previous years, or perhaps finding new ones recently exposed by nearby fallen trees or the growth of older ones. Roosts are chosen carefully for it's only the strong and the larger branches that can hold their size and weight. With adult eagles weighing up to 7 kilograms, it's important they find perches that can hold the weight of a six month-old baby.

As tall as a kitchen table, and with a wing span the length of a bed, it's also important for eagles to make sure there's enough room to move about, take off, and fly into. Old growth cottonwoods and alders are excellent perching trees as they stand without leaves throughout winter, although evergreens of adequate size are just as beneficial. Once they've finally found a great place to rest, they have to make sure it meets their dietary needs. Is there food nearby? Is it possible to see far and wide for good hunting opportunities?

Bald eagles, although good hunters, prefer an easy catch – such as dead fish – and if at all possible will search out a place to camp near a good food source. In the corridor, that means the river.

And what kind of fish is their favourite? Any fish that's there of course! In Squamish, it's the chum that are spawning in big numbers around Christmas time.

In January, the chum have finished the better part of their lifecycle but are still given time to decompose (a process extended by winter freezing). The coho, although much smaller in numbers, are still running for another month of so. By the time February comes around, most of the chum has either decomposed or been eaten, and the few coho remains are left to the birds, the young ones that is. It's a more common sight to see juveniles (camouflaged with more brown feathers) in the early spring, when, inexperienced still as hunters, they will stay around as long as there is even a small amount of easy catching to do.

Even in March, keep your eyes up and out for the few lingering eagles mature enough to show off their bald heads.

Upcoming Events

Saturday, April 6th — Monthly Bird Walk . Meet at the base of Lorimer Road at 7 a.m. (please note earlier time!). Contact Michael Thompson (604-932-5010) for details.

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