Immature Bald Eagle For Bird Photography Weekly

by Larry Jordan on March 8, 2009

Immature Bald Eagle photo by Larry Jordan

I was fortunate to have this immature Bald Eagle land on the snag in front of the blind I reserved at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge yesterday.  I took many shots of this guy while he was preening, and then he took flight.

This is a two or three year old Bald Eagle.  They don’t get their distinctive adult plumage, with the all white head and tail, until their fifth year but  I think the mottled brown and white plumage of the immature bird is beautiful.

I was able to take some great photographs from the blind (or hide as the British call them) at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  I will be posting my exploits in upcoming posts.  Until then, take a gander at the other great bird photos at Bird Photography Weekly!

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas March 9, 2009 at 1:38 am

Larry : The closeup is awesome, it looks more like a macro shot. Very well done. Coincidentally my latest post is also about a eagle – a different species ofcourse.


Kim (Kallen) March 9, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Awesome shots! I love the detail in its gorgeous feathers in the first picture.

Kim (Kallen)s last blog post..Bird Photography Weekly-Pileated Woodpecker


Monika Wieland March 9, 2009 at 4:46 pm

I agree with Thomas, that close up shot is amazing! Thanks for sharing. I’ve been watching bald eagles myself but have yet to get *that* close!

Monika Wielands last blog post..Eagle Antics


bob k March 9, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Aren’t they majestic? Wonderful capture of the eagles, Larry!

bob ks last blog post.."As if.." *


Amber Coakley March 9, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Oh Cooool! What great pictures! Reserved a blind at the NWR? What a great idea! I usually walk my legs off and sit on logs when I need a rest. I keep promising myself a trip to Hagerman NWR (about 1.5 hour from where I live), but I keep doing chores instead. Enough of that – I want to go to another NWR too!

Amber Coakleys last blog post..Bosque del Apache: Sandhill Crane Finale


Larry March 9, 2009 at 9:19 pm

@Thomas thanks for stopping by with your always welcome comments. The Mountain Hawk Eagle you captured is amazing!

@Kim thanks. Your Pileated Woodpecker is awe inspiring!

@Monika my first time in a photo blind has gotten me hooked! I really enjoyed your winter wonderland and the Red-tailed Hawk photo

@Bob thanks for your kind words

@Amber, quit with the chores already and get over to that NWR! See if they have a blind you can reserve and enjoy watching the birds as if you were invisible! I highly recommend it!


Tom March 11, 2009 at 5:18 am

Awesome bird. Great shots.

Toms last blog post..Breeding and Flocking in the Long Tailed Tit


Birds of Maine (John) March 12, 2009 at 3:43 am

WOW! What a great way to start out the day in a blind/hide!

Superb photos Larry!

Birds of Maine (John)s last blog post..Ruby-crowned Kinglet


Debbie March 12, 2009 at 7:59 am

Awesome shots! I especially like the flight one , it shows off the powerful size of the eagle.

I am hoping you can do me a favor. I have visited the wildlife refuge many times but honestly I am not the best identifier of species. Can you look at the photo
and help me figure out what it is.

Thanks! Debbie

Debbies last blog post..Tobago Cays, Grenadine Islands


Nate March 12, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Great shots, but this bird is still in the juvenile stage. It hasn’t hit the Basic 2, 3, or 4 molt, putting this bird under two years old–


Larry March 12, 2009 at 9:24 pm

@Tom thanks for the comment

@John thanks, it was an excellent day at the SNWR and I will be posting more of that trip

@Nate thanks for the correction. I use the term immature when I am not certain that the bird is still in its first pennacious plumage. I understood that juvenile Bald Eagles were mostly brown and become more mottled after their first year with more white on their belly, flight feathers, tail and back.

I would love to see some photos of Bald Eagles in different sub-adult stages if you have access to any. I have posted a couple more photos here to help with age of this bird. Thanks Nate!


Red March 13, 2009 at 11:10 am

That blind worked fantastically! Amazing the plumage details in your photos. Congrats 🙂

Reds last blog post..Bird Photography Weekly #28


Nate March 13, 2009 at 11:56 am

I went back and looked more carefully at the photo and then at the newer photos you posted and changed my mind. It might be a little older than I first thought. Terminology can sometimes vary from expert to expert, but this bird appears to be somewhere between the juvenile stage and Basic 2 stage. Some people don’t use a Basic 1 stage, but some people do. I would call this bird a Basic 1 Bald Eagle. It is probably in its second year, so let’s just say it’s somewhere around 2. It is most likely younger than that, but 2 is a nice round number.

Bald Eagles, by the way, have been found to have full adult plumage at 4 years old. Almost everybody else says they get their full adult plumage by age 5, but that’s not always the case…

Here are a couple links to help with aging Bald Eagles…


NateB March 13, 2009 at 10:13 pm

OK…had more time tonight to look over the pictures again….I’m changing my mind, again.

Larry, you were right the first time. The Eagle is about 2-3 years old and appears to be in its third plumage, making it a Basic 2.

The head isn’t white enough to be a Basic 3, and the secondaries are all about the same length, making it older than a Basic 1 (which would have a mix of long and short secondaries)…so, it’s a Basic 2! You were right all along Larry. Good Job! The extra pictures helped…..


Larry March 13, 2009 at 10:32 pm

@Red thanks for your kind words

@Nate thank you for all the great Bald Eagle information. Many people have difficulty IDing hawks and other raptors because of their variable immature plumages. These links make the immature Bald Eagle identification a bit easier and make it easier to estimate their age as well.


Siberian tiger May 18, 2010 at 3:24 am

Eagles are great animals. They are symbols of power and freedom. That is why kings and emperors placed them on arms. Even today can be found on the arms and flags of many countries such as US and Russia.
.-= Siberian tiger´s last blog ..White Siberian tiger =-.


elise smith April 14, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I saw an immature identical to the one pictured today; they snagged a fish from a small pond I happened to be watching for other bird activity. I live in upstate NY and see adults every so often, within a few miles of the banks of the Mohawk River. Even saw a pair of adults 2 weeks ago. Very special for me….


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