Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are famous as the national bird of the United States, though more bald eagles reside in Alaska than any other state. Bald eagles are common in Valdez and the neighboring Copper River Valley and Prince William Sound. Bald eagles are in the Family Accipitridae, making them cousins to other birds in the region like golden eagles and goshawks.
Photo by Ed Pinsky
Bald eagles do prey upon small mammals and other birds, though their diet is primarily fish. The eagles around Valdez feast on the annual returns of salmon, and will challenge smaller birds or other eagles to steal fish. Eagles may be seen performing aerial acrobatics over town, with two eagles tumbling in the sky with their talons locked together: this is often a courtship ritual performed by mating pairs. Bald eagles build large nests in trees and both parents help to raise the chicks. The eagle pairs will reuse the same nest for many years. Their call is a very distinctive high-pitched chirping.
"Eagle Argument". Photo by Gary Minish
Safety & Etiquette
"The Eagle Act prohibits anyone from taking bald eagles. Among other actions, 'take' includes disturbance of bald eagles," Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Under the Bald & Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 it is illegal to possess any part of an eagle, including feathers. While it may be tempting to take home an eagle feather as a souvenir of your Alaska adventure, it is best not to do so. The act also prohibits disturbing eagles; please view and photograph our eagles and their nesting areas from a safe distance.
Some visitors to Valdez that travel with pets worry that our eagles may attempt to fly off with their cat or dog, though according to an article by ADF&G, this is unlikely to occur: "the best estimates put the lifting power of an eagle at four or five pounds."
Photo by Bob Benda
Bald eagles are ubiquitous in Valdez and can be spotted year-round. Visitors will likely spot eagles perching in trees and man-made structures throughout town or stealing fish scraps from the small boat harbor. An eagles nest on an island in the Duck Flats may be viewed from along Dock Point Trail. Eagles may also be seen preying on returning salmon at the fish hatchery during the summer. Many more eagles may be spotted out in Prince William Sound on one of our local wildlife tours.