Learning about Eagles

I finally attended my first Master Naturalist advanced training! In order to keep my Maryland Master Naturalist certification, I have to complete at least 40 hours of volunteer work as well as 8 hours of advanced training each year. All of it is very exciting as I’ve been waiting a long time to take an advance training class! My first training was held at the University of Maryland – Central Maryland Research and Education Center in Ellicott City, Maryland. We were a group of about 20 Master Naturalists from various counties in Maryland and spent the better part of the day learning about bald eagle biology, their life story and current conservation and research efforts. The presenter, Latice Fuentes, was absolutely wonderful. Her current research project involves evaluating concentrations of contaminants in bald eagle tissues to assess ecosystem health. She has been going around the country for the past few years educating people about this magnificent bird.

Photo by Latice Fuentes

Photo by Latice Fuentes

Here are some of the most interesting things I’ve learned on the bald eagle during the workshop:

  • The word "bald" is derived from an older meaning of the word "white"
  • Female bald eagles are usually larger than males
  • Their life expectancy is between 20 and 30 years
  • It takes about 5 years for eagles to reach full adult plumage
  • their wingspan can reach almost 8 feet
  • Bald eagles living in the north are actually bigger than those living in the south
  • Eagles nests can weight up to 1,000 pounds!
  • The biggest eagle nest was found in Maryland and weighted 1.3 tons, was 20 feet tall and 9 feet in diameter!
  • Eagles add to their existing nests every year
  • More than one nest is built during courtship, but one nest will be used to lay eggs
Our naturalist group looking at an eaglet in a nearby nest.

Our naturalist group looking at an eaglet in a nearby nest.

Where can you find bald eagles around Maryland?

Bald eagles are making a comeback in the Washington, D.C. metro area. A couple of places that come to mind is Black Hill Regional Park where at least one nesting pair has been spotted for the past several years. Another great location is Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, MD. Finally, the Brighton Dam Recreation Area and adjacent Tridelphia Reservoir are also good spots to see eagles. I have had the most luck seeing them at the Brighton Dam area in early winter.

For more information on the Bald eagle, check out Latice’s pamphlet.

Happy 4th of July everyone!