“What's for Breakfast?”
The image above shows the female eagle dining in the nest. After consulting with a colleague in the DGIF Fisheries division the fish has been identified as a speckled trout (spotted seatrout) Cynoscion nebulosus. The black spots against silvery/grey skin are distinctive and allowed the identification to be made. (Picture courtesy of the Virginia Marine Resource Commission)
These are a marine fish commonly found in the Chesapeake Bay during warmer months. The bulk of these fish winter in warmer water, although some remain in area. In cold weather these fish may become very sluggish and flounder at the surface, becoming easy prey for an eagle. Winter-kill fish are also an important part of an eagle's diet and they commonly scavenge carrion along the water's edge
The eagles at the Botanical Garden have a varied diet (that commonly includes gulls) but rely heavily on fish. Previously we have been able to identify gizzard shad as one of their prey items. These fish are common in the freshwater of Lake Whitehurst adjacent to the Garden. The proximity of both fresh and marine water provides a great resource to these birds, allowing them to take advantage of many prey species. The continued recovery of bald eagle populations depends on healthy fisheries and on the health of the Chesapeake Bay and our lakes and rivers.
For more information on
Marine Fisheries: http://www.mrc.state.va.us/
Inland Fisheries: http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing/