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Fish are a primary, but not exclusive, food source for Bald Eagles

Hands down, Bald Eagles (like the 2nd year immature bird pictured) prefer fish over other prey — roughly 56% of the diet of nesting Bald Eagles consists of fish such as salmon, herring, shad, and catfish.  However, eagles are opportunistic foragers and over 400 species of prey have been recorded, half of which are waterbirds. Reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates such as crabs and crayfish, and small mammals such as squirrels, rabbits, muskrats, young beavers, fawns and raccoons are also subject to Bald Eagle predation.

During their first year, until they learn to be proficient hunters, Bald Eagles frequently feed on carrion. Even as adults, eagles regularly consume roadkills and deer that have died as a result of being stranded on ice. Whatever food is available and requires the least amount of energy to capture is usually high on their list.

Although not considered a primary source of food, domestic pets are subject to occasional predation by eagles. A discovery made by Fish & Wildlife personnel engaged in banding Bald Eagle nestlings may be of interest to cat owners who allow their pets to roam free in the great outdoors.  Upon reaching one nest, they found, among the detritus, over 20 cat collars.

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9 responses

  1. judilindsey

    Mary, Happy New Year! I especially liked this post – with the warning to cat owners! I shared it with our Candia Facebook page – hoping it will reach people who do allow their cats to roam. Enjoy your day and the new year! Judi

    > 1/01/2021 8:01

    January 1, 2021 at 8:35 am

  2. Alice

    Quite a varied diet. ☹️ About the Kitties. Wishing you & your family a Happy 2021 !

    January 1, 2021 at 8:57 am

  3. I wonder if they eat turtles, especially snapping turtles? I wish someone did!

    January 1, 2021 at 10:30 am

  4. Sandy Gmur

    Happy Happy New Year Mary! My daughter Emily arrived this week and we read this together this morning. She drove out from CA and one stop included participating in the Christmas Bird Count in Florida. Do you do that? Hope all is well. xo

    January 1, 2021 at 11:07 am

    • Hi Sandy! How are you? I miss Hartland more than I can say! Hope all is very well with you and Cobb Hill. I have done Christmas counts in the past, but not for many years. They are such fun. I hope you’re having a great visit with your daughter – a wonderful way to bring in a new year, particularly this one! Best to you. Mary

      January 1, 2021 at 6:49 pm

  5. When I was teaching ecology on Isle au Haut, I took the whole school (only 10 kids – a one room remote school house) to explore under a couple of eagle nests on the island to see what detritus we could find. It was all bird bones. I think that eagles that hunt at sea instead of lakes and rivers are subsisting primarily on seabirds. Eagles are a major threat to nesting colonies on the remote nesting islands in the Gulf of Maine, especially to birds like cormorants and eider ducks that nest in exposed, open terrain. And I have often watched an eagle pluck one duckling (especially black duck ducklings) after another out of the sea, carrying each back to the nest for the eaglets, and then returning for more. I think that the human impact on fish populations, combined with the resurgence of eagle populations, is the source of the problem. In coastal Maine, people actually talk about controlling eagle populations to save seabirds.

    January 1, 2021 at 2:54 pm

    • Fascinating, Kathie. I know there is concern about loon chicks here as well…I, too, have searched under their nests and found all kinds of goodies! Not everyone would enjoy that pastime! 🙂

      January 1, 2021 at 6:51 pm

  6. Kathy Rizzo

    Any idea what the eagle on the picture is eating?

    January 1, 2021 at 7:26 pm

  7. Amy Harris

    I’m curious about the cat collars. Did the tiggers take the collars so the owners could be notified?

    January 2, 2021 at 10:00 am

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