“What's on the Menu?”
This pair has had success raising large broods of three eaglets. This requires not only that the parents be skilled and experienced hunters, but also that the habitat is a rich enough resource to support their efforts. The bald eagles at the Norfolk Botanical Garden have chosen an abundant territory - One that offers many hunting opportunities.
While the bulk of a bald eagle’s diet is typically comprised of fish - they are opportunists who will feed on a variety of prey. The eagle cam has captured this pair feeding on a variety of prey - from pigeons and gulls to muskrats. Mostly though we've seen them eat fish. On several occasions we've noted spotted seatrout a marine fish that can be found in the Chesapeake Bay as well as brackish creeks (see 2009 archive). Gizzard shad are the most common prey item that we've seen in the past. This schooling fish is plentiful in nearby Lake Whitehurst.
In the past weeks we've noted two fish that we hadn't previously identified in the nest. On the first picture you'll note the rounded body and dark speckling of a black crappie. The second shows the distinct long dark barbel (or whisker) of a channel catfish. These identifications were confirmed by Chad Boyce, VDGIF fisheries biologist for the region who also noted "That's a big crappie if it came from Lake Whitehurst". He also pointed out that these species being captured at this time of year is somewhat unusual, as they typically retreat to deeper water during the winter. These "unusual" catches demonstrate that the eagles are flexible and able to utilize whatever resources are available. For more information about the fishes of Virginia check out www.virginia.gov/wildlife/fish.