In the sky over Colusa County this week, the first bald eagle born at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge took its first flight.
This was the first successful bald eagle nesting at the refuge, off Interstate 5 about 90 miles north of Sacramento, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release.
During winter, bald eagles are a common sight in the refuge, when eagles from northern states and Canada congregate in the Central Valley to feast on the abundance of waterfowl, officials said. But during the summer, breeding bald eagles are not typically found in the Sacramento Valley, tending to stay close to lakes, rivers or the ocean.
The bald eagle was placed on the endangered species list in 1967 due to nesting failure associated with contaminants such as lead and DDT, a common pesticide used to control mosquitoes and other insects. The banning of DDT in 1972 and reintroduction of the bald eagle across the United States has allowed the bird to increase in numbers.
In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the bald eagle from the federal endangered and threatened species list, though California continues to list it as endangered.
The adult male and female bald eagles at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge began building a nest in 2011, but it was blown out of the tree during heavy winds. This past winter, they tried again in a section of the refuge closed to the public. Bald eagles typically lay one or two eggs, and in this case only one young male has been observed in the nest, officials said. The fledgling is about 11 weeks old and is staying close to the nest. Over the next several weeks, the parents will teach the young bird how and where to hunt.
Currently, officials said, visitors have an opportunity to catch glimpses of the young bald eagle along the six-mile auto tour or the viewing platform. This summer, they report, the adult eagles have been seen hunting American coots and fish on the auto tour route.
For more information about the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, go to www.fws.gov/sacramentovalleyrefuges/.