Haines is one of the many jewels in Alaska. Not only is it a spectacular place with draw-dropping, stunning mountains, but it is also the location of an annual and unique wildlife event. Every November, thousands of bald eagles (peak has been about three thousand) flock to and converge on the gravel and sand bars of the Chilkat river near Haines for their annual salmon fish fest. It is the largest single gathering of bald eagles in the world.
Because of a geological thermal condition, the Chilkat river stays warm late into the fall and early winter, delaying the freeze-over. This allows the salmon to spawn late into November and early December. Over time the bald eagles have discovered this location and have flocked in for a last feast before the harsh winter.
The American Bald Eagle Foundation and the town of Haines sponsor a celebration of this amazing event every year during the second week of November.
An eagle would rather steal a fish from another eagle than find its own.
Sometimes the defending eagle will back off and let a dominant one take the prey.
Sometimes the defending eagle will rear up with wings and talons exposed to defend its meal.
Often an eagle will grab a piece of salmon and fly to the nearby trees for protection, enabling it to consume the fish without threats from other eagles.
The eagles on the Chilkat do not need to fly and grab a fish swimming in the water, as they do in so many other places. Here the salmon die after spawning and float to the surface or to shore. The eagles usually just walk to a carcass and drag it to the shore, where they can consume the fish. They often will squawk to the world to announce “this is my fish” and “do not steal”.
However, as one can see, this strategy just calls attention to the catch. Other eagles will wait for the right moment to attack.
Watch a video of a bald eagle squawking its claim over its salmon: