Six photos show how to recognize young Bald Eagles

9/26/2016 | 0

Adult and just-hatched Bald Eagles in a nest.

Adult and just-hatched Bald Eagles in a nest in British Columbia, by .

A regal-looking Bald Eagle appeared on the cover of our October 2016 issue (which is available here). We chose the species to call attention to Joe Trezza’s feature story about Vito and Linda, New York City’s history-making Bald Eagle pair. They were the first Bald Eagles to nest in the Big Apple in 100 years.

Since we sent the issue to the printer, the pair made history again: They produced at least one historic juvenile — New York City’s first naturally reared Bald Eagle chick since at least 1914.

The big news made us think how fun it would be to watch the youngster develop over the next few years. We gathered the photos here from our galleries. Bald Eagles take four to five years to acquire their distinctive adult plumage. All eaglets start out like the fuzzy-headed birds above. Tony Joyce took the photo in British Columbia when they were three weeks old.

Juvenile Bald Eagles have white axilaries.

The eaglet above, photographed by Alex Westner in Pike County, Pennsylvania, in July 2008, is a little older (and much bigger). It is getting ready to fledge. Like all first-year eagles, its head and belly are brown, but its axilaries (its wing-pits) and underwing coverts are white.

Two Bald Eagles perch side by side.

The all dark eaglet above is another first-year bird, a recent fledgling. It was photographed by Tony Joyce in Delta, British Columbia, as it perched alongside an adult eagle. The youngster’s bill is dark. The adult’s bill is bright yellow.

Second-year Bald Eagles have white bellies.

After one year, Bald Eagles develop white patches on their belly and back. The bird above shows not only the white belly but also extensive white on its wings, marking it as a second-year eagle. Robert Visconti photographed it as it flew along the Mississippi River in winter.

Third-year Bald Eagles have dark eyestripes.

Photographer Tony Joyce tells us the eagle above was sharing a tasty just-caught duck with an adult eagle in British Columbia. White feathers on the crown and throat and a broad dark stripe behind the eye show that the bird is in its third year.

A third-year Bald Eagle in flight.

The Bald Eagle above, photographed by Lenny Beck in Hamilton County, Ohio, is another third-year bird. Brown feathers are replacing the white mottling on its belly and underwings, its bill is turning all yellow, and enough white feathers are visible on the head and throat to suggest what the eagle’s all-white head will soon look like.

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