Visit the first bald eagle family to nest at Oregon's Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.
Moving households is arduous for anyone, but perhaps toughest of all for the American bald eagle. After a spectacular courting season involving aerial displays and talon locking in midair, the male and female mates build their aerie in winter over the course of two weeks—one giant stick at a time—culminating in a nest that can weigh as much as two tons. They don’t give it up lightly.
At the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, 15 miles southwest of Portland, the refuge’s first-ever eagle pair set up housekeeping in spring two years ago, fledging its first eaglet within sight of the visitor center. “We think they might have lost their nest somewhere else and needed to rebuild quickly,” says Jenna Mendenhall, who coordinates conservation education for the refuge.
In late fall and early winter, you can see the eagle family circling in search of small prey. Watch the birds from the visitor center or the refuge’s two-mile round-trip trail—to the tune of thousands of honking waterfowl that gather in the wetland habitat to overwinter. (503) 625-5944, fws.gov/tualatinriver.
This article was first published in November 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.