If you're interested in using any of these photographs in any way, please contact me. Send an e-mail to naturalhistoryphotos(at)gmail.com. Thanks!

Friday, November 16, 2012

In the rain

Okay, these are pretty marginal photos, but perhaps you can help solve a mystery!

I was driving to work along Coleman Valley Road this morning.  It was raining, but in the distance I could see a sizable bird perched on a utility pole.  It looked larger than a vulture, but I wasn't sure if the rain and dim conditions were playing tricks on me.

When I finally got close enough, the bird flew off, but I snapped a few photos from the car.

Here's a better view of the tail (I said better, not good!):

And one from the side:

A Red-tailed Hawk appeared (on the left in the image below) and started to dive on the larger raptor:

I had one more view before the bird was too far away:

The very large size and broad, plank-like wings make me guess eagle, but I'm not 100% certain which species.  Eagles take ~5 years to develop full adult plumage.  Prior to that, Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles can look pretty similar to each other.

I paid attention to the following:

- overall dark coloration
- distinct white at the base of the tail
- a small amount of white at the base of the primary feathers
- a relatively small head (but larger than a vulture's)
- a relatively long tail (the head appears to be less than half the length of the tail)

These characters make me lean towards an immature Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), but I'm open to other ideas.  Do you agree?  Do you see something that makes you think differently?


Sarah Ann said...

I totally think that's a golden eagle! Awesome!

Claudia said...

Wow. I haven't seen a golden eagle in a long time! That's what immediately came to mind when i saw the white on the tail.

I didn't know that immature bald eagles look similar to immature goldens, so I cracked open Sibley.

One additional detail I noticed in your first and second photos is the white feather on the top of the wing. It looks like that coloration may be unique to first year goldens.