A Strange Looking Eagle

I am currently charging up batteries, gathering photo equipment, and planning for capturing the annual Perseids meteors. Thus, I likely won’t have time to be on social media over the next few days, possibly up to a week. I am, however, going back through some of my older posts and preparing them for scheduled, automatic posting to my blog. If you want to keep up with these “oldies, but goodies” while I am busy with the stars and meteors, you can always check out my blog at:  www.showmenaturephotography.com (and click on “Blog” on the menu across the top of the page). I hope to be back “live” in a week.  :o)

(Note: this post originally published in December, 2010)

Images in this post are from a trip to the Chilkat River Valley, outside Haines, Alaska. The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) featured in this post seems to be “stuck in a time warp”. Bald eagles usually don’t develop their white heads and tails until their 4th or 5th year. This eagle has a “half-developed” white head, but also has some white wing feathers, which is not typical. After shooting these images, I made a stop at the Bald Eagle Visitor’s Center in Haines. Talking to one of the volunteers there, I found out that this bald eagle also visited the Chilkat River Valley the year before my visit … and in the exact same plumage as I found him. This was confirmed by a photo taken the previous year and used in a photo calendar that was at the center.

Here are some images I captured of this unique individual. In this first image, you can see the distinct white head at the front of the head, but the back of the head is a definite salt-and-pepper coloration of the subadult bald eagle:

Two-toned Bald Eagle

In the next couple of images, you can see the other major oddity of this individual … white wing tips!:

Two-toned Bald Eagle

Two-toned Bald Eagle

And in this final image, our eagle is about to put his talons into a fresh salmon dinner:

Two-toned Bald Eagle

What causes this strange-looking eagle? Most likely, the eagle is “leucistic”. Leucism is a genetic mutation that prevents melanin and other pigments from being deposited normally on feathers, resulting in pale or muted colors on the entire bird. Albinistic (albino) birds have pink eyes because without melanin in the body, the only color in the eyes comes from the blood vessels behind the eyes. In the past, I frequently observed a leucistic red-tailed hawk that lived not far from my rural Missouri home, but I haven’t seen it for several years now, so it likely met it’s demise.

Reminder: I will be presenting an informative program on the upcoming “Great American Eclipse in Missouri” tonight at the Harrisonville, MO branch of the Cass County Library. It is free of charge and starts at 6:00pm at the library. The first 75 attendees will receive free eclipse viewing glasses. If you live in the area, stop by and say “Hi”.


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