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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Nov 16, 2012

Juvenile Eagle in silhouette and a lesson

Eagle attempting to catch a thermal
A few weeks ago, I was getting off the bus at a busy intersection, when I spotted a large bird just above me at a midpoint in the intersection.  It was flying really low, but  it was cloudy and gloomy, and all I really noticed at first was that the bird was in silhouette and rather large.  Raven, I thought, but then revised that thought instantly, because this bird was too large to be a Raven.

At this point I reached for my camera but the bird had already moved quite a distance, and I was kicking myself for not reacting sooner.
Eagle Juvenile or subadult
Still seeking a thermal

The camera's zoom revealed that I had an Eagle in my sights and as fortune would have it he, or she, was trying to catch a thermal and so circled above me for quite some time.  Unfortunately the images I captured are all in silhouette, but I was convinced that I had captured a Golden Eagle and I was positively thrilled.

However, when I looked at my images later in the day doubt crept in.  You see, there was simply too many white patches on this bird to be a Golden Eagle unless it was a Juvenile Bald Eagle or an Eagle in molt.   I needed a positive ID and I suspected that this particular bird was a juvenile or subadult.

My internet search led me to several excellent websites that very helpfully provided lots of information and identifying field marks to look for.  As you can see, my images didn't provide great detail so, the most useful  field mark for me, is that an eagle with a white patch under the armpit is a Bald Eagle.  Golden eagles, both juvenile and adult may have white patches but apparently never in the area where the wing meets the chest of the bird.

White patch under armpit
As you can see in this last image if you click to enlarge the photo, the Eagle that I captured here has white patches under the armpit.  So what I have here is clearly a juvenile or subadult Bald Eagle.   Now you might think that I would be disappointed to discover that I did not capture an image of a Golden Eagle.  

This is not the case however, I did capture the image of an Eagle, the closest image I have yet been able to get.  The species doesn't matter, as I do not often see Eagles in the city.  I also learned a valuable lesson in bird identification.  Life doesn't get better than this for me.


1 comment:

  1. Susan, butt kicking one self seems to happen to all bird photographers. I kick my own behind a lot! But, you did get a valuable lesson in Eagle ID.