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Bald Eagles Year-Round Residents In Much Of The Northeast

Most immature Bald Eagles migrate, but if adults have nested in an area where water remains open year-round, they are more likely to remain in or near their breeding territories all year, defending their nest site.  The risks that migrating pose are not worth it if they can get all the food they need (1/2 – 1 ½ pounds/day) to survive the winter, which they can in much of the Northeast.  In the past few decades, the number of overwintering eagles has been increasing in New England to the point where it is not unusual to see adult eagles near and even at their nests any month of the year. (The accompanying photo taken in Vermont on 11-14-20.)

Eagles do make changes in order to adapt to winter conditions.  While they continue to feed on fish, they also do a fair amount of scavenging in the winter, feeding on roadkills and animals such as deer that may have wandered onto the ice, fallen and not been able to get back up.

Another behavioral change that occurs is the tendency to gather in large numbers, clustering close together on branches at overnight roost sites.  Often stands of white pine provide the birds with some protection from the cold wind, thus allowing them to conserve energy.  An additional advantage of this communal life style is that they get cues from each other as to where sources of food may be by watching the direction in which the first birds take flight in the morning (those with a known source of food often are the first to leave the roost).

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6 responses

  1. Reuben

    We see eagles year round on the Androscoggin in N. NH. There is quite a bit of open water in places, due to hydro plants, rapids, etc.

    A few years ago a neighbor watched two young(?) eagles attack 14 turkeys who spent the night in a hardwood tree on an island opposite our house in Gorham. They had some into our yard in the late winter, looking for cracked corn that I set out. My guess is that with crusty snow conditions they did not want to go far…but I was surprised to see that they spent the night in the tree, being buffeted by cold and winds. In the morning, I saw them still there, over some open water. This same tree often has eagles in it, looking for fish, etc.

    I left and the neighbor saw the attack. One turkey fell out of the tree. When he blew up a photo from about 100 yds away, he saw a bobcat sitting at the base of the tree. It probably was the beneficiary of the attack.

    This year, way early and despite there being a good acorn crop, we’ve had 1, 2 and finally 15 turkeys come across the river and looking for corn. I only have some bird feeders out so they found dropped seeds and wandered the neighborhood a bit searching for food. I think some of these had to be returnees from previous years. Normally they don’t come over until Jan. or Feb. after wet snows that freeze, making food sources hard to find.

    November 16, 2020 at 7:54 am

  2. Alice

    What a thrill to see them…I have..on a pond in Halfax, near here. It’s so awesome they have made such a come-back after a man-made disaster of DDT. Communal seems like a great way to live.

    November 16, 2020 at 8:01 am

  3. Gwen

    This is Some nest!

    November 16, 2020 at 8:08 am

  4. Do they need fresh water, or can ocean-wintering eagles find enough to get by? I know they can successfully hunt in the ocean. I am wondering about drinking,especially whether they might be able to eat snow.

    November 16, 2020 at 8:11 am

  5. We have quite a few! They Like Golf Courses, Beaches, and dense Marsh Land here in MASS beautiful to see! This is a gorgeous shot! 🙂 ❤

    November 16, 2020 at 8:40 am

  6. That is the best nest! It is huge and weights what over 1000 lbs? Pretty fabulous construct and form.

    November 18, 2020 at 12:09 am

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