Featured, Outdoors, Science

Annual Eagle Migration Reaches Seward

By Brian Wright for Seward City News-
Eagle overlooking Resurrection Bay. Photo by Brian Wright

Seward has been invaded. By eagles.

Over the past couple weeks, the animal known as the symbol of our nation’s strength has flocked to Resurrection Bay in incredible numbers. A recent count in the area surrounding the lagoon noted at least 36 adult and immature eagles.

Although the lagoon seems to be the epicenter of the recent invasion, eagles can be spotted topping lampposts, snags, and buildings all across Seward. With graceful plumage and stern countenance, they serve as sentries looking over town.

According to Christina Kriedeman, a Biologist/Research Permit Coordinator with Kenai Fjords National Park, late-season salmon, many of which end up in the lagoon, as well as plentiful sea ducks in Resurrection Bay provide food for eagles. Resident eagles are joined by eagles that migrate from interior, colder parts of the state. This combination of factors is responsible for the annual increase in local eagle activity.

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The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates there are 30,000 bald eagles living in Alaska, making it the greatest concentration in the United States. Bald eagles are Alaska’s largest bird of prey. Adults have wingspans up to seven-and-a-half feet and weigh between 8 and 14 pounds. Eagles can live for about 20 years.

Not all bald eagles migrate. Individuals who roost in areas where food is plentiful year round do not engage in seasonal migration. According to the American Eagle Foundation, those that do migrate travel between 75-125 miles per day, depending on the weather.

Although many of the animals currently in the Seward area are full adults, a large number are immature. As large, or nearly as large, as adults, immature eagles are recognizable by their mottled brown plumage. It takes around five years for an eagle to reach maturity and develop its distinctive color pattern.

The bald eagle was adopted for the Great Seal of the United States on June 20, 1782. Once perceived as a threat to livestock and salmon fishing populations, bald eagles were killed in massive numbers until the Bald Eagle Protection Act passed in 1940. Bald eagles were also heavily impacted by the now-banned pesticide DDT. Eagle populations have rebounded since, from an estimated 417 nesting pairs living in the contiguous United States 1963 to nearly 15,000.

Bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list in 1995.

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