Steve Slade of Homer, Alaska, had an unexpected visitor three years ago when a full-grown bald eagle came swooping into his backyard. The bird has not stopped visiting since.
“I had a bit of extra popcorn left over from a movie, so I brought it home to give to the birds,” Slade said. “I sat some out on the railing of my deck and went back into the house. The next thing I saw was this huge eagle perched on the railing staring in at me through the window.”
Unlike the other birds, the eagle was interested in Slade, not the popcorn.
Ever since that day, the eagle has nested in a tree above Slade’s house. He is often seen with another smaller eagle who Slade believes is her mate. They return to the same spot every year and surprisingly, have even introduced their son to him.
“Over the course of the next few months, mostly during winter, I’d see them very often,” Slade said. “Bonnie and Clyde would hang in the yard sometimes. Then one day, I saw a third one swoop down and he still had a brown head, so I knew it had to be their young kid.”
Slade’s house is right near the beach and thinks the Eagles return to his property to nest since it’s a good vantage point for them to catch fish. He often sees them swooping across the ocean, then back up to the nest with their catch.
For the past three years, he’s become so familiar with them that when he comes home for lunch and whistles up to them, they call back. While he often feeds the other, smaller birds, he’s careful to not make the eagles dependent on him.
“I don’t want them to count me as their food source — that’s when they quit hunting,” he said. “These birds are beautiful. I watch them hunt every day and they do very well here.”
Slade has become fond of the birds, and it’s clear they trust him, too. Sometimes, Slade will spot one perched on top of his truck. He always looks up to the nest to see their heads peeking out from above.
“There’s no denying why they’re our national bird,” Slade said. “They’re all muscle, and when they take off it’s just extraordinary to see. The intense look on their face, the way they hold themselves … they’re an animal you’ll never forget an encounter with, and I’m lucky to see them almost daily.”
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