Juvenile Bald Eagle Sighted

While canoeing on the pond, we paddled by one of the bald eagles’ favorite hangouts – a dead tree on the waters edge.  We have a couple of dead trees on our property and have not cut them down for this very reason – the bald eagles love to hunt from these high perches.  Today, instead of an adult bald eagle though, we spotted this youngster:

Bald Eagle - Red Mill Pond - August 7, 2016
Bald Eagle – Red Mill Pond – August 7, 2016

Initially, I was a little confused.  Was this really a bald eagle?  Aren’t they supposed to have a white head, white tail and yellow beak?  What kind of bird is this?  An article on Wikipedia says:

The plumage of the immature (bald eagle) is a dark brown overlaid with messy white streaking until the fifth (rarely fourth, very rarely third) year, when it reaches sexual maturity…  Another distinguishing feature of the immature bald eagle over the mature bird is its black, yellow-tipped beak; the mature eagle has a fully yellow beak.

So what we have here is an immature bald eagle.  I have no idea how old it is but, it must be less than five years old.  And apparently, while adult eagles are proficient hunters of live prey, immature eagles are more likely to obtain their food from scavenging.

Here is a picture of the same eagle, taken just before it landed on the woodpile (above).  Notice the impressive wingspan and its yellow talons:

Immature Bald Eagle - Impressive Wingspan - Red Mill Pond - August 7, 2016
Immature Bald Eagle – Impressive Wingspan – Red Mill Pond – August 7, 2016

We were careful to keep our distance from the eagle.  As a general rule, I try to keep far enough away from the wildlife on the pond, so as to not create a stress or disturbance for them in any way.  I know that this is their environment and we are just guests.

We paddled away, as quietly and carefully as possible.  The eagle turned away from us, spreading its wings out slightly to bask in the warm sunlight.