HANCOCK FORUM NEWSLETTER Issue No 6 ~ December 01, 2007


Issue No 6 ~ December 01, 2007
Editors: Cobbler39/Blue Heaven



The Bald Eagle’s food habits are some of the most versatile of any bird in North America. Their diet consists of a very broad range of animal matter. The mainstay of their diet is a variety of fish, which was previously underestimated because studies of nest site debris did not account for the fact that fish remains decompose readily and that fish bones are digested by Bald Eagles and may not appear in castings (regurgitated pellets).

The Bald Eagle is an environment helper by eating a variety of marine life and other animals as well as carrion of all types. The three main food types are: fish, aquatic birds, and carrion. Depending on what is available, they will shift quickly from one food to another. In this way, the eagle is able to return to its nest territory each year because the variety of prey it obtains prevents over hunting of the area.

Beebe (l974), sums up the remarkable versatility of this species: "To a singular degree the Bald Eagle emulates the behaviour and hunting techniques of every other kind of raptorial bird on the continent, but it has also developed a trick or two of its own. Bald Eagles are variously scavengers, carrion feeders, pirates, fishermen, mammal or bird predators, and they capture the latter either from the air, on the ground, or from the water.”

The high productivity of young in the nests in the Strait of Georgia has been linked to the abundance of prey and rich variety of food the region supplies; fish, marine invertebrates (crab and shellfish), seabirds and waterfowl, as well as a regular fare of prey obtained from foraging on farmlands. They have been observed feeding on stillborn lambs in the spring.

On Southeast Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, the location of the Saanich and Hornby nests, Vermeer et al. l989 reported: "Frequency of prey remains beneath nests was 52% birds (mostly Glaucous winged Gulls), 34% fish (mostly Ling Cod and rockfish), 12% marine invertebrates (mostly crabs and clams), and 2% mammals (mostly carrion). Glaucous-winged Gulls were by far the most frequent species of prey. Up to 50 eagles attracted to hake brought to surface by upwelling in Active Pass." These findings are consistent with fish remains being much less persistent or obvious than are remains of birds and mammals.

Bald Eagles invariably choose fish, when available, over other food types. In many areas, 90% or more of the Bald Eagle's annual diet is composed of fish. Seasonal sources of food are:
  • (January to April) - schools of herring
  • (March – April ) – eulachon runs
  • (May – June) – hake brought to the surface at tidal rapids
  • (late August through January) – spawning salmon
  • Birds - nesting season near seabird colonies and wintering waterfowl on delta regions
  • Intertidal invertebrates, such as crab and shellfish

Being opportunists, Bald Eagles take advantage of fishing scraps and bycatch along the coast. They are not shy about alighting on fishing boats to look for free offerings:

image ... imagephotos: Blue Heaven

Eagles do not chew their food. They use their beaks to rip pieces off and tear it into smaller portions. They will swallow a small animal whole. The food passes into the crop, a swelling at the base of the esophagus. Food can be stored in the crop, allowing the Bald Eagle to quickly consume large amounts of food for later digestion. In this way, they can avoid having to share their catch with others. After gorging themselves, the bulging crop is noticeable.

image ssportrait: Blue Heaven
Victoria and Sidney, May 24, 2006

The birds swallow indigestible items such as fur, bones, fish scales, claws, beaks and feathers, as well as other things that could damage or block the bird’s digestive tract. These are formed into a compact pellet. The soft meat is separated and digested in the stomach. They make themselves throw up these pellets, usually right before they eat their next meal. This is called 'casting a pellet'. The tightly packed pellets found underneath nest trees can be pulled apart and examined to provide information about the Bald Eagle's diet. (Click on pictures to see videos):

VIDEO: Ejecting A Pellet, March 3, 2007 (2:30)
(Sidney Nest, poor quality recording of the Flash Cam - Mom on nest watches Dad, then copies him)
image VIDEO: Malkin Eagles, July, 2007 (3:39) ...image
The Stanley Park eagles were seen trying to regurgitate pellets this past summer up on their treetop; Dad getting rid of a pellet - you can see it drop. .....Other Wildlife/Eagles/Stanley Park Eagles
...Blue Heaven

read on for more...

imagetimh (J3) ... Here's proof that Eagles don't always get their fish:
imageJohn Simpson ... now we see one reason for a gull wing in the nest each season.
imageGrizzly ... that picture isn't of an eagle losing out on a fish, it's about an eagle getting a two-course meal.


Sidney Nest
  • Quick visit, Nov 09, 2007, 5:00pm ...whippets84
  • A storm rocked the tree on Nov 12, 2007. The only apparent damage was a loose, hanging branch behind the nest that blew away.
    Click on picture to see VIDEO (4:56)
  • Dad brings a stick, Nov 15, 2007.
    Arrives 11:45am ... ELNYC ... placing the stick ... ELNYC ..... Leaves 12:10pm ... janner
  • Annette reported that she and FrankL visited Saanich on Nov 18, 2007. Mom and Dad were in the platform nest, looking like two love-birds.


Goldstream Estuary
Work is underway to activate the Goldstream webcams.
Hornby Island Nest
Message from Doug Carrick .....Hornby update Nov 21
Chehalis Estuary
  • On November 15, the Eagle Festival organizers held an information session on the Chehalis. A rehabilitated juvenile Bald Eagle was released. Keta recorded a beautiful video of this event .....YouTube/FraserValleyBaldEagleRelease. The juvenile circled above the river to the accompaniment of a native drum song before leaving to join the salmon feast on the estuary.
  • Richard Pitt set up a camera on the viewing platform at the Chehalis flats and we were able to see some wonderful scenery and lots of eagles during the two-day festival. It is now playing as an archive on the Live Cameras page .....Hancock Channel/The Harrison-Chehalis Eagle Festival Nov 17/18
    imagephoto: Richard Pitt
  • David Hancock has posted an account of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival .....From the Field/Hancock's Comments From The Field/Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival - A Great Success
  • Threatened logging of an area of Older Growth forest on a ridge nearby at Echo Lake is causing great concern. This has been a traditional night roosting area for hundreds of eagles during centuries of salmon spawning on the Chehalis River and Harrison Lake area. David gave an interview to TV crews at Echo Lake. Video by Keta of the interview is in the Media Gallery/Hancock in the News album ..... click on picture for video
    An eloquent account by David of his visit to Echo Lake and then to the Chehalis estuary by moonlight to see hundreds of eagles still feeding on salmon after dark is at..... Harrison-Chehalis - Wonderland & Conflict
  • beans has posted a video on .....SS&V Chehalis River Estuary & Hatchery from the Underwater cam at the Chehalis Hatchery channel.
    image Up Close and Personal (2:28) ..."As more fish swim to the spawning area, there's less elbow room. They are packed like sardines, but, unlike behavior in New York subways, all are polite. No tail-biting or hostile actions."


Wendy Memorial: Thanks to your generous donations to Hancock Wildlife in Wendy's name, we're mailing the first set of books out to an elementary school library where Wendy used to work. Please pass the word to any teachers that you know about the free book offer. This will help many students and classrooms. Information about the free book offer for teachers. <-- Please click the link.

Cameras: Access the Hancock Live Webcams at the Cameras page at .....Hancock Wildlife Channel

Calendar: You will find information about upcoming events by clicking on the Calendar link at the top of each page.

Newsletters: You can now easily access the Newsletters by clicking on the link under the top banner of each page.

Hornby DVD: Doug Carrick's 35-minute DVD of the Hornby Island eagles (showing their return from the 2004 migration through spring of 2005) is available at Hancock House Publishers ..... Bald Eagles of Hornby Island DVD

The Hancock Wildlife Foundation (HWF) has many nest builders and we have learned that an eagle's nest is never done. We have observed the eagles bringing and rearranging sticks all through the seasons, even after fledging. And so the HWF needs nest builders to keep adding strength and support.

Doug Carrick

Photo: CBC TV ... image

Hornby Island lies just off the central east coast of Vancouver Island. One must first take a short ferry ride to Denman Island, then another ferry to Hornby Island. The scenic and ecologically rich island has a population of approximately 1,000 people who support a summer art gallery and a community hall with music and theatre productions year-round.

The shoreline has picturesque sandstone rock formations
image and beautiful white sand beaches image
with a diverse array of marine wildlife. It is a haven for nature lovers. The Hornby-Denman area has the largest and most consistent herring spawn in British Columbia which attracts sea lions, Harlequin ducks, and an estimated 10,000 Bald Eagles each spring.

Doug Carrick was brought up at Powell River, across the Strait of Georgia on the mainland coast, and lived there for 30 years before moving to Victoria for the next 30 years. Doug and Sheila Carrick retired to Hornby Island about 19 years ago. Here, Doug found a new hobby – keeping detailed records and diaries on 18 eagle nests. Doug says it is hard to keep track of them all – they keep changing their nests, sometimes for no apparent reason.

The famous Hornby nest is about 500 feet from the Carrick house in a tree across the road. When the property changed hands, the new owners, along with the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, gave Doug permission to install a closed circuit video camera above the nest (for scientific and educational purposes) when the eagles were away in September, 2004. The Bald Eagle nest is about 100 feet up a "snag" Douglas Fir - a tree that has the top broken off by lightning. This picture shows the tree from the front door of Doug Carrick's home. The nest is just below the broken top of the tree.

photo: Richard Pitt

Doug: "Along the way, I had met Bob Chappell of Victoria, who had a lot of experience photographing wildlife with video cameras. I realized this technology could be used on my eagle tree. Without Bob’s knowledge and helpfulness, it would never have happened. I relied entirely on Bob Chappell. He recommended the best type of camera and purchased it for me. He then wired it for sound (which it picks up so well) and connected the other necessary electronic devices. And he gave me full instructions how to install it."

With the camera hooked to his television and a VCR, Doug recorded about 13 hours of tape. He reduced this to a 35 minute presentation and began showing it to groups around the Vancouver Island area. It begins with the eagles returning from migration. They stared and glared at the new camera, poking at it with their beaks. Doug and Sheila say that on the TV screen, they looked like giants staring into our house. In the spring, he recorded the female laying an egg.


In late 2005, he showed the tape to eagle experts in Nanaimo. Doug says, “David Hancock was there. I knew who he was. I have one of his early books on eagles, but I had never met him before. At the end of the video, he stood up and said, “I’ve been watching eagles for fifty years but I’ve never seen such good pictures.” He immediately added, “Everyone in the world must see these eagles!” I was so pleased. What a response! A week later he was up to Hornby Island looking over my set-up. Two weeks later he had delivered the computer equipment necessary for transmitting live streaming pictures to Infotec, the server in Los Angeles. Soon after, Richard Pitt, the computer streaming expert, arrived to put it all together. It was David’s energy, enthusiasm and willingness to take a risk that got it all going.”

The rest, as they say, is history. The Hornby Nest site of the spring 2006 season was the largest live streaming video experience on the internet to date.

When asked how seeing the eagles up close on camera had affected him, Doug replied, "It hasn’t really. But I was very pleased to get this additional wealth of information. What did affect me was the result of the web-cam, when I realized that millions of people from all parts of the world were watching these same eagles, and when I realized how thrilled they were, how moved they were and how grateful they were. People were saying “We must look after our environment”. I feel so fortunate to have been part of it all. I also feel so pleased that the eagle phenomenon seemed to hit so many elementary schools – becoming almost part of their curriculum – as part of their science programs, for research projects, for composition or art. I was told by a teacher in a special needs school that many of their students had difficulty relating to each other. But as they watched the eagles, it seemed to open up their desire to communicate."

photo: TakeCare
Members of the Hancock Discussion Forum talking to Doug at the Campbell River Eagle Festival, March 3, 2007.

Doug continues to watch the eagles from his home and is able to view other pairs of bald eagles nearby. The Hornby pair’s favourite perch tree is right next door. He has finished work on a manuscript on the Eagles of Hornby Island that Hancock House will publish. When not watching eagles, Doug is tending his large garden, lecturing on eagles, and showing his unprecedented video to captivated audiences.

Doug Carrick placed the very first sticks in the HWF nest.


Each member of the Hancock Wildlife Forum has a story to tell about how, why, or when they joined. As part of Nest Builders, this column will feature these stories: they are the very essential body of the nest. Many members have already posted their story on.....The Garden Fence Chat/How Did You First Hear About the Eagle Cams? Please take the time to add your story there.

bociany ... Someone posted the link to the Hornby Nest Cam on a quilters' email list. The rest is history. Since I became so involved with eagles, I have un-subscribed from that other list.

radueriel ... Saw a story of the Hornby eagles on Yahoo...and clicked on link and here I am.

Christi_T ... I belong to a Louisiana cooking message board, where a great guy from England posted a link to the Hornby nest. That was all it took for me to be hooked. I couldn't believe that I could see them so closely that I could watch them sitting on the eggs and nodding off once in awhile. I so loved listening to them call to each other. I can't wait to hear that again. For me it's such a peaceful sound.

Indy ... I think there was a news article on local televsion about Mr Carrick and the Hornby Eagles....I was hooked!

jwnix ... Information about the Hornby Island nest was posted on a Louisiana bird listserve, and curiously, since it was in B.C. and I saw my very first ever BE on Vancouver Island, I looked for it. Have never left....9 months later! I continue to be awestruck at the huge potential of all that is available through the Hancock Wildlife cams broadcast globally and the educational experiences available on the forum.

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