Travel Photo Thursday: Capturing “Big Bird”

Travel Photo Thursday: Capturing “Big Bird”

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Bald Eagle EmblemIn 1782, the bald eagle was chosen as the the national emblem of the United States. Tens of thousands lived in the country then, but within a hundred years they had become scarce.

The widespread use of the pesticide DDT almost wiped them out; a mere 417 nesting pairs were found in 1963.

I’ve seen numerous eagles wintering near the bird refuges in the Klamath Basin along the Oregon-California border. You can find them as far south as Southern California. And a couple of years ago, while hiking near my home just north of San Francisco, I looked up just as a bald eagle scooped a fish out of mid-air after forcing a smaller osprey to drop the meal it had clutched in its talons.

But the best place I’ve been to for viewing bald eagles is southeast Alaska, where they seem as common as crows or starlings in the Lower 48 states.

Sitka sits on the Pacific Ocean side of Baranof Island whose eastern flank faces Southeast Eagle "Sitka", Alaska Raptor CenterAlaska’s Inside Passage. You can reach it on an Alaska Marine Highways ferry, or an Alaska Airlines jet.

While you might sight bald eagles perched around town, or flying over the harbor, you’ve got a chance to get “up close and personal” with one if you visit the Alaska Raptor Center.

The Center’s mission is to rehabilitate injured bald eagles and other birds and return them to the wild. But sometimes a bird’s injury is so Treating an injured Eagle, Alaska Raptor Centerserious that it can no longer live in its native habitat. Some, like the eagle “Sitka,” will join the “Raptor-in-Residence” education program for visitors and school children.

You can see birds as you stroll the Alaska Raptor Center’s outdoor walkways along the Indian River, and you may be able toMeasuring Wingspan, Alaska Raptor Center watch a bird undergoing surgery through an “operating room” window in the main lobby.

Although raptors brought to the Center knew you to fly, they need to regain their aerial abilities during the rehabilitation process. The Center’s “Flight Training Center” gives the big birds a chance to test out their wings, and for visitors to watch them fly along an indoor “flight path.”

And, if you aspire to soar like an eagle, you can find out if your “wingspan”  measures up for the job.

(Click on an image to enlarge to full-size. Visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more of this week’s Travel Photo Thursday shots.)

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9 Replies to “Travel Photo Thursday: Capturing “Big Bird””

  1. Reading how big these birds of prey wingspans are, it always seems impossible to believe, but seeing the woman’s arms outstretched brings it home. 🙂

  2. It’s sad that the population of such beautiful creatures has dwindled so much. It’s good to know that there’s such center that rehabilitate the injured eagles. I hope that they will be able to multiply. Love the photo of the eagle sitting on the man’s knee; it looks so regal. That wingspan photo is pretty fun.

  3. That is some wingspan! I’ve never seen a bald eagle except on paper and didn’t realize how huge they are. It’d be great to see them up close. Thanks for sharing this, Dick.

  4. Birds of prey are so fascinating, aren’t they… My 11-year-old adores them, and whenever we’re in England, seeing eagles and falcons and owls are always her top choice. She would love this place.

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