Hunting Perches

When exploring places where eagles live, look up at the tops of trees.  If you spot a tree with dead limbs at the apex, it is likely you have found a hunting perch.  You might find these along shorelines, on river banks and next to mountain meadows.  If you are lucky, you might spot one which includes an eagle or two.  I am most fortunate to have two such hunting perches, one on each side of my yard.  Both are about 100 feet (30 m) in the air and actively used year-around by the local Bald Eagles (Heliaeetus leucocephalus). 

The birds will sit patiently on the perch keeping watch over the bay.  When they spot something with their "eagle eyes," usually a salmon, they'll head out after it.  They will use two methods to catch the fish; swoop and grab which you have seen in nature films is one.  The other is "kerplunk and heave."  They will land on the water and float there for a moment, wings splayed.  It's not very dignified.  Then they heave themselves into the air with the prize in their talons. 

The trees are also used as "loafing perches," and the lower limbs for courtship.  Talk about a ruckus when that's going on.  I don't know if dead tops attract the eagles or if the birds' perching causes death of the limbs.  I suspect it is the latter since only certain trees in strategic locations contain hunting perches.  The local birds are remarkably tolerant of the presence of humans.  They perch directly over our houses and seem unconcerned when I am out working in the yard.  I would like to think they know how welcome and safe they are here.

If you are a follower of this blog, you should be able to identify the species of the trees.  Here is a hint:  Are the cones pointing up or down?