Once a rarity, bald eagles make their way to northern Rhode Island


BURRILLVILLE/NORTH SMITHFIELD – “We saw a bald eagle swoop in lofty magnificent curves over Pascaoag Pond, and launch like an arrow of light through the sky over the wild waste of Malavera Woods,” were author Horace Keach’s poetic words back in 1856 in “Burrillville; as it was, and it is.”

The words, “Haliaeetus leucocephalus,” hardly inspire anyone unfamiliar with Latin; however, write or say, “bald eagle,” and hearts swell with patriotic pride, and minds conjure the wondrous winged creature sailing on the wind in the mountainous American west.

“He’d be a poor man if he never saw an eagle fly,” sang singer-songwriter John Denver in near-religious ecstasy in the hit 1972 song “Rocky Mountain High.”

One might expect to observe such a spectacular site in the mountains of the late songster’s native Colorado.

However, here in Rhode Island too, fortunate people have experienced that singular high, seeing a bald eagle or two at Colt State Park in Bristol, at Goddard Park in Warwick, as well as elsewhere in the state.

“I have seen a couple pairs,” said Patti Mcalpine, marketing associate and educator at Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, of bald eagles, “along the Seekonk River, at the Cumberland Reservoir — and at the Blackstone River.”

In recent weeks, residents have reported spotting the birds at Pacheco Park, Slatersville Reservoir, Spring Lake and Mill Pond. 

With a wing span of up to around eight feet, height up to around three feet, and weighing as much as 15 pounds, the bald eagle stands out, and is a relatively rare sight in Rhode Island, but the population has grown since around the year 2005.

Mcalpine says the bald eagle, if spied at all, is apt to be seen by the water, where the birds are hunting for fish.

Beginning with sighting of the birds back in the early part of the decade at the Scituate Reservoir, the number of sightings has slowly increased, and now sightings are more frequent, as it’s believed bald eagles have established permanent residence in Rhode Island.

Birding enthusiasts have posted their sightings, such as of osprey, great blue heron, and the occasional bald eagle, says Mcalpine.

The Burrillville Conservation Commission on their website suggests a place to potential spot the bald eagle is in the Wallum Lake area.

“A bald eagle is an opportunist when it comes to surviving winter. They will seize ducks and gulls resting on the ice as well as scraps from the Central Landfill in Johnston,” reported Quahog.org

The expression “eagle eye” is a truism. With eyes eight times more powerful than human eyes, bald eagles can see a fish, or other prey animal, from 10,000 feet above the water or the “mountain” at Central Landfill, and the predators see more of the visible spectrum.

Spring is in the air, and bald eagles have been spotted in the state. Flying over Burrillville, “like and arrow of light through the sky,” just as Keach stated in the Victoria age.

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