Bolinas Bald Eagle


I was driving to work through the fog when I saw a dark shape float low over my car and drift toward Bolinas Lagoon. My first reaction was “Turkey Vulture” followed by a glimpse of a white-ish tail… “Osprey perhaps?” They were both usual suspects but when it banked I knew it was the first Bald Eagle I’d ever seen in Bolinas (granted I’ve only lived here for four months). It felt like a 3rd year bird, my hunch based on the amount of white in the tail and the scatterings in the body and remiges. I’d heard they can winter here and was so excited to see it scaring up Northern Pintails as it flew off into the fog. With no place to park and a meeting to get to, I kept on going and hoped that when I got home it might still be around.

When I got back to the lagoon there was a dark shape in the top of a snag, where I thought the eagle might be, but it turned its red featherless head and began to preen. While watching that Turkey Vulture another lump in the next snag turned its head and I immediately stopped at the next pullout.


The Bald Eagle was still around! Now of course I’m hoping it winters here. I think it really is a third year bird, although it’s getting late in that third year.


The head is a getting nice and light but is still dirty and transitional. I love these intermediate birds.


There is a lot of white in that tail but it is such a cool tattered mix of black and white.


It came to rest in the Eucalyptus trees and preened and watched the grebes foraging in the waters below. Then the Ravens which drove it out of the original tree returned to cautiously mob the newcomer.


Here’s a better look at that fantastic tail.


It finally settled in one of the larger trees and sat and preened and surveyed the lagoon for the next hour… so I moved on, hoping that the next few weeks will bring more eagle encounters.

11 responses

  1. What good spotting, and yes I hope we get to see more of him? him? her? can you tell?.. c

    November 1, 2011 at 4:46 am

    • It is hard to tell without behavioral cues (i.e. mating) or a side to side comparison. Females are often noticeably larger but so far I can’t tell with this one.

      November 1, 2011 at 5:40 am

  2. Excellent find and shots! What time of the day did you go there? I hope it stays for some time. I would like to go there this weekend. Any instructions on where to look? Thanks for sharing.

    November 1, 2011 at 10:50 am

    • It is probably wandering. I saw it in two places, near Audubon Canyon Ranch and across the lagoon in the eucalyptus trees near Pine Gulch. The photos were taken around 2pm. Good luck.

      November 1, 2011 at 10:58 am

  3. John Wall

    There was an adult at the lagoon a couple of years ago. I don’t recall exactly how long it stayed, but it did not stay the whole season. More a matter of weeks, I believe.

    November 1, 2011 at 2:10 pm

  4. christina

    No doubt about it..YOU are the BIRD WHISPERER! I love all your posts. Christina Orth

    November 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm

  5. magtnificent. you’re such a bird magnet.

    November 1, 2011 at 7:07 pm

  6. Great shots! Eagles are magnificent birds and I am forever grateful I had the opportunity to work with them while living in North Carolina. Thanks for sharing.

    November 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm

  7. Gopal

    Do eagles generally have a contour in their wings that hawks don’t? I feel like there’s an extra little curve out towards the wingtips.

    November 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    • I wouldn’t be surprised given their extra wing loading. The shape changes as it scales up to accommodate different demands. It may also be that I caught the bird in a particular pose that highlights that curve.

      November 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm

  8. Nice catch Walter!

    November 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm

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