The Mantling Juvenile Bald Eagle

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

OMG! I witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime moment!

I was out photographing at Hauser Lake, Idaho, and parked along the road, scouting for ducklings. I got a whole lot more than what I bargained for. A huge bird flew down into the leaves. I stayed in the car, grabbed my camera and tried to find him, but he was hidden.

My heart started racing when I saw his wing in the grass, and realized it was a juvenile bald eagle! I slowly got out of my car, and was terrified it was hurt and couldn’t fly, or maybe fell out of the nest. The temperatures have stayed at triple digits for weeks at a time, and baby raptors have been falling or jumping from their nests, looking to get out of the heat. They are much too young to be on their own, so they are hopefully rescued and eventually land at this amazing place called, Birds of Prey Northwest. They do everything from educate the public on raptors, rehabilitate and take care of them medically. Of course, when it’s time, if it is possible, their end goal is to release the raptors back into the wild, where they belong.

I’ve become acquainted with one of the amazing rescuers and told her I really want to go on a rescue and even learn how to do it myself. The reason I was so afraid of the juvenile eagle being hurt, is because I do not have gloves nor do I know how to handle a raptor. I can’t until I’m trained.

BUT…I couldn’t have been more wrong. O…M…G…I spoke softly and asked if he was okay. When he was barely out of the leaves, I saw his wings spread out.

That’s when I realized, he wasn’t hurt at all! In the photos, his posture is called “mantling.” It’s when a raptor spreads its wings to hide and protect his food from other raptors. (or animals) He had a fish in his talons that weighed too much and made it extremely hard to fly.

Guess he was sleeping during that teaching moment.

I’ve never been that close to a juvenile bald eagle, and it was mesmerizing. He was close enough where I had to pull my zoom lens in. I just kept snapping hoping I’d get a photo or two. I was really hoping he would try again and fly away. It’s not safe to eat on the ground and he needed to get into a tree, of some sort.

It warmed my heart to see him fly away, but that is very dangerous. See how close he was the ground, in the street? This is one way eagles get hit by cars. I did drive around in the direction he was flying and checked. The lake is on one side and a hillside is on the other.

And, then the mantling juvenile bald eagle was gone.

Soar high and be free!!!!

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