Friday, February 1, 2008

The Eagles of Squamish

It is estimated that 10,000 eagles visit the arteries of the Squamish River between mid November and mid February. The largest known group of wintering raptors of Bald Eagles on Earth was counted at 3,796 in 1994.

Because of pollution, urban encroachment, poaching and decreased salmon stocks, eagles are hard pressed to find suitable habitat. The Squamish River system offers eagles the perfect nesting and feeding grounds. The combination of old tree growth for night roosting, cottonwoods for perching and gravel bars for catching salmon during the summer “run” attracts the birds to the area.

The bald eagle is the largest of the raptors, though it usually confines its hunt to fish. Native only to North America, the bald eagle has a distinctive white head, white tail and featherless ankles. It stands approximately one meter tall and its wings often span 2.4 meters.

Young bald eagles are different shades of brown. When the bird matures to four years, the white head and tail feathers, bright yellow eyes, beak and talon appears. These eagles live as far north as the edge of the Arctic Circle and as far south as North Carolina. A pair of nesting eagles often claims a territory as large as 4,200 hectares. Abundant food supplies mean a smaller territory.

The mainstay of the bald eagle’s diet is fish. They flock to British Columbia during the annual salmon run. If fish are unavailable, the bald eagle’s second choice is waterfowl, though if the need arises, they will eat other types of meat.

The eyesight of the bald eagle is four times sharper than that of a human. Despite this, eagles are scavengers and think nothing of stealing food from other species. They are also carrion eaters and often feed on dying salmon or road kill.

Of the 70,000 bald eagles found in North America, 20,000 live in British Columbia. They usually lay two eggs each season. The first hatchling often kills the second. If both survive for three weeks, a truce is called. The young eagles leave the nest when they are ten weeks old. Half die from starvation during their first winter alone. The oldest recorded bald eagle was twenty-eight years old.

In 1995, the Squamish Estuary Conservation Society and the Eagle Watch Interpreter Program organized volunteers to teach visitors to the Squamish River area about the wintering bald eagles. They answer questions; teach eagle viewing ethics as well as eagle biology and critical habitat requirements. The goal of the Eagle Watch Program is to educate visitors so they will not disturb the wintering bald eagles. In 1998, fifty volunteers interacted with 4,400 visitors who visited the Eagle Run viewing site. Though the eagles ignore people, they require some privacy for feeding and nesting.
If you are in the Squamish area and would like to view the magnificent bald eagles, take Highway 99 to Garibaldi Way and turn right on Government Road, which runs along the dike. All sections of the road offer a view across the river where the eagles nest.

The West Coast Railway Heritage Park is also a great place to view the eagles. Take Highway 99 to Industrial Way and follow the signs.

When you arrive at the dike, seek out the information kiosks. Community groups maintain these. They offer information on the bald eagle’s habitat, biology and behavior. On weekends from December to February members of the Eagle Watch Interpreter Program are available at Eagle Run which is located on Government Road near the Easter Seal Camp. They offer information on services and amenities available in Squamish as well as tips for eagle viewing.

The Brackendale Eagle Reserve is a newly declared provincial park that is located across the river from the Eagle Run. It consists of 755 hectares of land. It stretches north to where the Cheakamus River joins the Squamish River and south to where the Mamquam River feeds into the Squamish.

The Eagle Run viewing area is on the east bank of the Squamish River and is outside the park’s boundaries.

If you are going to be in the Squamish, area between December and February, don’t miss the awesome spectacle of the wintering bald eagles. Be sure to take your camera and lots of film. Viewing these majestic birds and capturing them on film will create memories to last a lifetime.


Denise said...

This was very interesting, the pictures are beautiful.

Mary said...


Thank you for your comments. I can see you are busy reading tonight. Praying for you, dear friend.


Marcel said...

A very nice artical. Nice photo too. Cheers,

Mary said...


I'm glad you enjoyed it.


Peggy said...

Wow, how beautiful and thanks for sharing information too. I enjoyed reading your post.

Mary said...


I'm glad you enjoyed learning about the eagles. They are certainly beautiful and so is that area of British Columbia.


Pear tree cottage! said...

I now know so much more then I did before I pressed the enter key on my key board to come into your blog page for this the very first time. It was wonderful reading truly it was.

I also read your Christmas story and adore that as well......I will be back again, truly I will!

Lee-ann from Australia

Lady Di Tn said...

We have eagles at Reelfoot Lake in northwest part of the state. The lake was formed when the Ms. river ran backward during an earthquake.
Nice photo and article.

Jo and JD said...

I have never been given the gift of seeing an eagle in the wild. I am sure that if I did it would be breath taking for me. There have been several eagles spotted and recorded by film in our area. As for the magestic families of birds the hawk is in abundance here and I am thrilled evry time I see one.

Wonderful post my friend.

Tina Coruth said...


What an informative and interesting article about these magnificent birds! I enjoyed reading it very much. That photo is outstanding. Thank you!


Kathiesbirds said...

Mary, what a beautiful blog! I saw 400 wintering bald eagles at the Farmington Bay NWR in Utah near the great Salt lake, but you've certainly got me beat! Who does all the beautiful art work on your Blog?

the teach said...

Mary, I've tagged you for "Six Unimportant Things About Me" at my blog: Answers To the Questions You don't have to do it if you don't want to. :)

Bev Brandon said...

Mrs Mary

This is Britt, Bev's son. I want to invite you to come to my mom's blog to see what your donation did in the lives of the Thai orphans. Thank you very much for your support and prayers for your orphan. It was greatly appreciated! Britt

Collecting said...

How beauiful! Breath taking pictures! I posted a late post on one of Dec blog. I will keep you in my favorite to return to read again.
Be safe in Jesus!
Hugs to you!

Byrning Bunny said...

Beautiful picture of the eagle. I've been trying and trying to get one that good of the eagles in our neighborhood.

Gwyn said...

Greetings from Juneau, Alaska!
I love your photo of the eagle. It's gorgeous! The view in top photo is spectacular too.
Your article was very informative.A+
Thanks for sharing!