This young female bald eagle was treated at Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society’s (MARS) facility in Merville. File photo/Campbell River Mirror

Eagles congregate around Salish Sea for one last feast before period of famine

Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society preparing to receive birds in need of care

An annual congregation of eagles along the shores of the Salish Sea has begun as the iconic bird seeks out one last abundant food source and a hospitable climate to wait out a period of famine.

This congregation in the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait, Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca) is the largest congregation of eagles in the world, according to Warren Warttig, president of Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS).

It is estimated that 70 per cent of all of the eagles on the west coast of North America migrate to and stay in the Salish Sea from late November to mid-February. The reason for this is that the Salish Sea offers a relatively mild climate, some prolific chum runs in December, and some of the earliest herring spawns in mid to late February, Warttig says in a press release. Coincidentally, about 70 per cent of British Columbia’s and Washington’s population live within five km of the Salish Sea, which often puts incredible pressure on the availability of adequate nesting habitat for eagles.

After fattening up on the late December chum runs, there is little food available for eagles until the herring show up in February. It is during this fasting period when a high percentage of fledgling eagles have a very hard time surviving.

MARS Wildlife Rescue received close to 50 eagles last year of which the majority were the younger eagles unable to endure the fasting period between December and February. MARS will soon have an adequately-sized flight cage to house the eagles (scheduled to be completed on or before Jan. 15).

RELATED: Major donation leads to completion of flight pen at Wildlife Rescue centre in Merville

Meanwhile, MARS Wildlife Rescue faces a similar fasting scenario that the eagles do. Donations can be good in December, but fall off dramatically in January and February. It is this period when they experience high financial demands to care for eagles and the organization asks that you think of them over the next three months.

You may not have known this, but the end of October to the end of February is the best time to trim your hedges. This period is the least likely to disturb nesting song birds (which are illegal to disturb). Each year MARS Wildlife Rescue receives dozens of little fledglings because of people pruning during bird nesting season.

RELATED: MARS invites public to see results of its support

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