Ocean Kayaking and Seeing Bald Eagles
ALL ABOUT BALD EAGLES
Spectacular animals sightings won’t be limited to the land and sea on your kayaking adventure. Look to the sky and you may spot the impressive bald eagle. Bald eagles are the largest birds of prey in Canada and there are plenty to see in British Columbia. The population of bald eagles here numbers over 20,000 and the only place where you will find more is Alaska, where over 40,000 bald eagles reside.
Bald eagles may look small when flying hundreds of feet over your kayak but in reality, they are huge birds. They can commonly weigh over 15 lbs. and their wingspan can stretch 8 feet! They have a white head, dark brown body, white tail feathers and a yellow beak. Bald eagles can fly at speeds up to 30 mph and with their massive beaks, are incredibly successful hunters. In British Columbia, they most often feast on our plentiful salmon but supplement their diet by eating other fish, aquatic birds and small mammals. Bald eagle pairs will mate year after year as long as they are both alive, lying up to 3 eggs per year. The birds shift the eggs in their massive 6-foot nest hourly to keep them warm. After hatching, the chicks will stay in the nest for about 10 weeks.
The image of the bald eagle is one that many Americans are familiar with as it is the United States’ national bird and appears on many official seals, including the presidential seals. Still, people are more likely to see the bird in British Columbia than they are to see it in the lower 48 states. While Alaskan and British Columbian eagle populations flourished in the early 20 th century, numbers in the lower 48 states dwindled dramatically. Bald eagles, once a common sight numbering near a half million throughout North American, were depleted to 412 nesting pairs in the continental U.S. in the 1950’s. This was due to habitat-loss, illegal hunting and the pesticide DDT that thinned the shells of un-hatched eggs. Bald eagles were put on the endangered species list, DDT was eventually banned and the species’ overall population has consequently rebounded with strength. There are now over 100,000 in North America. The bald eagles status was eventually changed from “endangered” to “threatened” in the 1990’s and as of June 2007, it is no longer listed as either.
The Bald Eagle has long played a sacred role in native cultures, many believing that eagles played the role of messengers between gods and humans. Eagle feathers and claws have been frequently used by pow-wow dancers and in traditional ceremonies while the eagle’s image is repeatedly found in aboriginal artwork. The Kwakwaka-wakw First Nations people, who have called Northern Vancouver Island and the area surrounding the Johnstone Strait home for many millennia are among those who have traditionally used eagle feathers for ceremonious purposes; spreading eagle down to welcome important guests.