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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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Eagle Sightings

Spotting eagles has become rather common for me, and I’m sure a number of other people as well. I don’t know how many times I’ve been sitting in my “branch office” (Dunkin Donuts-Muncy) only to look out the window and watch one or even two mature eagles flying low along Muncy Creek — sometimes they

Spotting eagles has become rather common for me, and I’m sure a number of other people as well. I don’t know how many times I’ve been sitting in my “branch office” (Dunkin Donuts-Muncy) only to look out the window and watch one or even two mature eagles flying low along Muncy Creek — sometimes they even land in the large sycamores along the creek.

This past Saturday my brother and I were ice fishing at Hills Creek Lake near Wellsboro when I watched a bald eagle swoop down and grab another ice fisherman’s fish laying only 40 yards away. That’s not the first time I have ever seen that happen either; we have watched the same scenario at Sayer Dam on several different occasions. In fact, we were ice fishing at Sayer Dam this past Monday, and I had several panfish lying on the ice when I notice an eagle circling overhead. Since I wasn’t in a mood to share that day I didn’t get too far from my stash. I don’t pretend to know a lot about eagle behavior, but I’m beginning to believe that eagles are starting to see ice fishermen in a very favorable way; in other words “where there are ice fishermen — there’s free food.”

A few weeks ago my granddaughter Sierra, related a rather “unfortunate” eagle sighting she had. She was traveling down Interstate 80 when she saw an eagle dive down low in the opposite lane just as a tractor-trailer came by; the eagle smashed into the top of the trailer no doubt killing it.

It seems like hardly a couple of weeks ever go by without an eagle sighting, but in all fairness, I make it a point to be on the lookout for eagles. I suspect the reason a lot of people don’t see eagles is that they don’t expect to and they don’t look for them. When I’m traveling about, and I see a large bird, I am immediately trying to identify that bird. Of course, it helps to know what characteristics to look for in order to make a positive identification. I suspect there are times when turkey buzzards and even ospreys are misidentified as eagles.

I know, eagles have white heads and white tail feathers but hold on a minute — that’s only true of mature eagles. Actually immature eagles are brown, mottled with some white on their wings and body; full adult plumage (white head and tail) is not attained until about the fifth year. So that large brown bird with a wingspan of six to eight feet but no white head and tail might actually be an immature bald eagle. Also, an eagle’s flight pattern and the way they soar is different from a turkey buzzard’s wing movements and the way they soar.

Although it’s pretty rare, there is another eagle that shows up in Pennsylvania once in awhile-the golden eagle. A mature golden has dark brown body plumage with gold tipped feathers on the back of the head and neck. Its legs are feathered to the toes whereas a bald eagle’s legs are feathered only halfway down the leg.

We’ve come a long way towards restoring eagles in Pennsylvania, from a time when seeing one was something to talk about to seeing them on a regular basis. In 1998 Pennsylvania was home to about 25 nesting pairs, and today there is somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 nesting pairs. I know of about a half-dozen nesting sites in our general area, and I’m always on the lookout. By the way, the nesting season is about to get underway so keep your eyes open there are more eagles around than you may have realized.

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