Not Just One Bald Eagle, But Five!

A second-year Bald Eagle (left) and a third-year bird (right) overlooking North Cove on December 15, 2021 

Previously, Bald Eagles seen at Salter Grove have been rare and solitary. It was therefore a great surprise to see five of them around North Cove the morning of December 15, 2021. 

During 90 minutes of observations from the causeway the eagles were mostly at rest, enjoying the sunshine on the large rocks and breakwater near Marsh Island, or roosting in two very tall tree crowns above houses on the western shore. They must have dined well recently because none of the eagles bothered to steal fish from gulls busily feeding nearby. Despite their majestic bearing, Bald Eagles are well-known kleptoparasites!

Trio of eagles in tuliptree on western shore of North Cove. Top eagle: third-year bird, middle and bottom: second-year birds.

Based on their plumage, two of the five eagles appeared to be first-year birds (dark beak, eyes and body), two were second-year birds (lightening beak and eyes, grayish head, and a dark body mottled with white), and the fifth eagle was a third-year bird (yellow beak and eyes, and lighter head). None of the five had the emblematic adult plumage of a brilliant white head and tail, which takes at least five years to develop.

Second-year Bald Eagle

Eagle families ordinarily disband as soon as the young are able to feed on their own, and members migrate separately to suitable wintering grounds. An ideal site would include very tall trees for roosting and a large expanse of open water with plentiful fish or other prey like small waterfowl and mammals. Studies at communal roosts along rivers in California, Oregon, and Minnesota reported maximum counts approaching 500 Bald Eagles!

The third-year bird has been banded

Whether the group of five eagles will stay in the park through the winter remains to be seen, but it was certainly an ornithological treat of the year for FoSG volunteers Carolyn Hardie, John Hegnauer, Jason Major, and Marina Wong.

Photos by Jason Major

3 thoughts on “Not Just One Bald Eagle, But Five!

  1. Two of them were in a tree bickering over a fish near 300 Narragansett Parkway. One was dropping fish guts out of his beak onto the road while the other complained with typical eagle chatter. What a wingspan! Super impressive.

    Like

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