Eagle - Jan 12, 2017

Through the Lens with Leon Lorenz

Leon Lorenz
Through the Lens - Leon Lorenz photo
Through the Lens - Leon Lorenz photo

It can be difficult at times, especially from a distance, to identify if the eagle you see is an immature bald or golden. Here are a couple of visual differences that will help you to recognize each species.

The lower legs of bald eagles, both immature and mature, are unfeathered, with exposed scaly skin. As bald eagles spend lots of time fishing or feeding on salmon spawning grounds, they don't have to contend with wet leg feathers. In contrast, the lower legs of golden eagles are covered with feathers all the way down to their toes. As they spend most of their lives in dry mountainous areas this is best for them. Identifying the feet of bald and golden eagles is much easier than identifying their feathers, as they molt and change color until maturity. When I spot an eagle I usually will first check the coloration of the head. Regardless of age the golden eagle has a golden nape that can be from pale tawny to dark orange. From this close-up photo we can't see the lower legs well, however, by the lack of a golden nape we can quickly identify it as an immature bald eagle.

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