Posted by: rlukei | July 30, 2009

Juvenile eagle plumage patterns

eaglea458321.jpgeagles46382.jpgEarlier today EagleEye asked a question about the tail pattern on juvenile eagles. The question is a broader matter of identification and the coloration of tail, body and wing feathers to assist in telling one eagle from another. There is a general pattern of black/brown and white feathers that identifies all juvenile eagles. The tail always has a moderately wide dark terminal band with a varying mix of mottled white feathers. Every juvenile eagle will have a different pattern and is one of the identification charteristics to look for to tell which eagle you are seeing. These two photos are of juvenile eagles that fledged this season. The one on the right is from a nest in Chesapeake, VA and the one on the left is HK from the NBG nest. Note the differences in the tail as well as the wing and body feathers. You can review the great photos that the photographers have posted to the two eagle forums and see there is a different pattern on HE, HH and HK with HK having the most white feathers.

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Hi there, HK wings look smaller. Is that because he’s a male.

Robin – Yes – Males can be as much as 1/3 smaller than females and is yet another way to identify individual birds in addition to feather pattern.

I tried to find the “eagle forum” to looks at the
photos mentioned above and I couldn’t find the
right spot. When you get a chance could you explain exactly how to locate the photos or
provide a link?
Thanks for all of your informative information.

LynnS – Forum site addresses

Link to the Norfolk forum…Reese’slink isn’t working.

Wonderful topic. I notice that with HK’s tail, the blackish brown is much shorter at the ends than the other juvies, particularly in comparison to HE and HH.

Looking at these birds’ faces, they all look the same! πŸ™‚

Mindy – That is an excellent observation and just what one looks for when trying to tell one juvenile eagle from another – the narrower terminal band also means there is more white in the middle of the tail.
One more note – the bottom side of the tail which we see most often when an eagle is flying is the “ventral” side, and the top is the “dorsal” which we see more often when an eagle is perched or laying in the nest.