Text by Brian Feulner
Photos by Don Dunbar
It was well before sunrise when Down East wildlife photographer Don Dunbar grabbed his blind and headed out to Pembroke, Maine, to photograph coyotes.
“A number of eagles and ravens usually show up throughout the day, so I spend my time watching and taking pictures of them,” Dunbar said.
As he sat and watched the tree line an eagle flew in that looked a little different. He made a picture and then zoomed in on the back of his camera to get a better look.
“I knew it was a golden eagle… a first for me,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar ended up staying in the blind for 10 hours that day, partly in an attempt to get better photos of the raptor.
As with many bird species, telling the difference between some bird species isn’t always that easy. After sharing the photos around to some bird experts in the field, I came back with mixed thoughts on the identification of the bird.
The immature bald eagle can look very similar to a golden eagle and is often mistaken. Because of the common brown color of the young bald eagles, they look very similar.
Golden eagles also are very rare to see in Maine. The Maine Department Inland Fisheries & Wildlife website reads: “Golden eagles have been designated an Endangered Species in Maine since 1986. This is the most widely distributed, successful species of eagle in the world. It lives in all continents of the northern hemisphere. Nevertheless, the species has always been a rarity in Maine and most of eastern North America.”
“I am absolutely positive it’s a golden. My biggest way to tell is that the feathers come down to the toes, I have never seen an immature bald like that,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar also said that he noticed that when the golden flew in, all the other eagles would take off and sit in the trees to wait for it to leave. They did this every time it showed up. They didn’t care if another bald eagle, adult or immature, flew in.
A day after our correspondence, Dunbar called to tell me he also shared the photos with Maine raptor specialists Erynn Call and Charlie Todd. Both agreed: It was a golden eagle.
What are your thoughts: golden or immature bald eagle?