Written By: Jim Wright for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation
To help Eagle Cam followers keep track of what is being served at the Eagle Nest Bistro, Duke Farms’ Charles Barreca has put together a handy menu, featuring photos of the various types of food sources — including yesterday’s eel for breakfast (above).
Bald Eagles typically eat fish for most of the season.
Early in the season — when ice cover can be thick on nearby waterways and lakes — carrion and small mammals may be a larger part of their diet until fish and turtles become more abundant.
In general, the fish consumed are:
White Sucker — rivers/streams, in the carp family, feeds off the bottom. One of the Duke Farms eagles’ favorites.
Trout (brook, brown, rainbow) — rivers/streams, usually stocked by the state. Native brook trout does breed in our local streams and rivers if the water is cold and clean enough One of the Duke Farms eagles’ favorites.
American Eel — rivers/streams, needs unblocked access to ocean to successfully breed. One of the Duke Farms eagles’ favorites. (Above.)
Common Carp — rivers/streams/ponds/lakes, non-native fish that is related to the white sucker. Bottom feeder.
Crappie — slow rivers/ponds/lakes, aggressive predatory fish and ponds that is related to sunfish.
Catfish — bottom feeder; distinguishing features are the whisker-like barbels and total lack of scales. In waters near Duke Farms you can find channel, blue, bullhead and white catfish.
Shad (American/gizzard) — in the herring family and feed on plankton in rivers, needs unblocked access to ocean to successfully breed.
Sea Lamprey — rivers/streams, a primitive parasitic fish that lacks bones, also needs unblocked access to ocean to successfully breed.
Large-mouth Bass — a predatory fish found in lakes and slower moving rivers streams. (Lots of surprises this year.)
You can view a fish ID chart for Eastern waters here.
Other prey are:
Turtles (typically musk turtles but occasionally painted/red belly turtles). One of the Duke Farms eagles’ favorites.
Small Mammals (rabbits, squirrels and other rodents, etc. A squirrel was brought into the nest yesterday.)
Carrion (roadkill, dead fish).
The fawn from 2009 (below) was likely road killed deer (carrion) since it was bought up as a part and later other portions of deer were taken to the nest.
You can learn how you (or your class) can participate in Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s eagle diet project here.
A big thank you to Charles Barreca for all his help and his hard work on this post!
Got a question or suggestion? E-mail Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Wright writes “The Bird Watcher” columnist for The [Bergen] Record. He is the author of four coffee-table books about wild places, and the deputy marsh warden of the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, N.J.