The Eagles Have Landed
FactsBirds of a Feather
Up on Grandfather Mountain, Christie Tipton is animal habitats manager, and she knows a golden eagle from a bald eagle.
“There are not many major differences between bald and golden Eagles, exceptfor the obvious coloring,” Tipton said. “Immature bald eagles do look much like a golden until they are fully mature at about 5 to 7 years.”
Tipton listed some differences:
— Weight. The weights of both eagles are considerably close with the golden eagle a bit bigger at up to 11 to 15 pounds, and bald eagles around 10to 14 pounds.
— Wingspan. Golden eagles’ wingspans are only slightly larger at up to 86.6 inches, and bald eagles’ up to 80.3 inches.
— Food. Bald eagles eat small mammals, birds and fish, whereas goldens eat small mammals and birds, but do not eat fish.
— Feathers. Golden eagles have feathering around their feet, which balds do not.
Speaking of feathers, bald eagles have them up top, too.
“Their heads are covered with short white feathers,” notes the famous San Diego Zoo on its website. “The term, ‘bald, may be from the Old English word, ‘balde,’ that meant white. Bald eagles are sometimes called American eagles, fishing eagles, Washington eagles and white-headed eagles. They belong to a scientific grouping of eagles known as sea eagles or fish eagles that includes the Stellar’s sea eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus.”
Almost three lonely, sad months are over on Grandfather
But now everything is looking up. Reason: Two bald eagles are now in residence.
They arrived March 22 from a recovery center in Nebraska, with everything but names. High Country residents get to take care of that.
Grandfather Mountain is starting an online-only contest to name the two new eagles, a male and a female, at its http://www.grandfather.com website.
“The winners,” said Landis Wofford, Grandfather’s director of communications, “get the prestige of naming our new eagles.”
The two winners also will get four tickets to Grandfather Mountain, a $72 value, “plus a behind-the-scenes tour” of the wildlife habitats, Wofford said.
The two new bald eagles, out of public view until late April, while a meshed roof is being installed over their living quarters, are settling in comfortably, Wofford reports. Breakfast this week, for instance, included rabbit and quail in undisturbed dining. The reason for the meshed roof is to keep outliers like ravens and raccoons from stealing the eagles’ vittles.
Wofford, who grew up in Newton and studied journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill, said Grandfather had been eagles-less and in mourning, after Morely, a golden brown eagle, died in January at age 35.
The new bald eagles will be the first of their kind at Grandfather in almost three years. Wilma and Sam were the previous bald eagle residents atop the mountain. Even though they were mates, they never did reproduce. Wilma outlived Sam and died in July 2010 at age 34.
“The two new eagles are not mates,” Wofford said, “so it is extremely unlikely” they would produce an offspring.
The contest, which begins April 5, requires a $1 donation on the website when you submit a name.
While the habitat staff at Grandfather will occasionally spot wild eagles soaring over the mountain, Wofford said it’s a happy time for everyone now to have their own eagles back on site for visitors to see.
For more information, visit http://www.grandfather.com.