Speaking of Eagles

Library talk explores the national bird in our suburbs

Photos by Susan Maxwell Skinner
April 2020

The ongoing—and increasing—presence of bald eagles on the American River is the subject of a Carmichael Library talk on Thursday, April 30. Photographer/author Susan Maxwell Skinner will present photos and stories of the newcomers’ migration to areas considered closest ever to Sacramento.

Maxwell Skinner located an adult female and a sub-adult mate in 2016. She recorded their courtship and the construction their first nest. Subsequent photography of four sets of eaglets hatched in the eyrie has achieved worldwide circulation.

Beyond the first couple, at least two more pairs of bald eagles have since established local territory and the researcher believes the species could be common on the Sacramento and American rivers within a decade. The original parents’ fourth set of chicks recently busted from baseball-size eggs. Dawn-to-dusk hunting by both parents brings nourishing prey and the babies will soon achieve their great adult size. At around 13 weeks, they will spread 7-foot wings and fly.

Maxwell Skinner has recorded maiden flights—and the dramas of fledgling day—by the previous chicks. Parental devotion comes with sacrifice, she notes. Exhausted by childcare, mom and pop complete each parenting season with tough love. They escape, leaving juveniles in the care of babysitters. Mom and pop later reclaim their territory and rebuild the nest for next season.

A testament to the regeneration of a species threatened once with extinction, this American River family’s presence is a joy to flight-path neighborhoods. The birds remain federally protected, and for fans unable to peer inside the eyrie, Maxwell Skinner’s photography is the next best thing to an eagle-cam. Her stories underscore the intelligence, efficiency and resilience of the species. “They’re also selfless providers, committed to family and to raising independent kids,” she says. “They’re fantastic stewards of nature and we might learn much from them.”

Carmichael Library is at 5605 Marconi Ave. The free presentation begins at 6:30 pm. Eagle photo cards and the author’s book on Carmichael will be available for purchase.

Note: The nest location is not provided to protect the raptors. Susan Maxwell Skinner’s wildlife observations may be followed on Facebook under Susan Maxwell Skinner—American River Nature Blog.

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