‘Pretty remarkable’: Onlooker spots 63 eagles in a row in Parksville

'Pretty remarkable': Onlooker spots 63 eagles in a row in Parksville
Photo: Lynette Kershaw
A Parksville woman counted 63 bald eagles in a row on June 19, 2023, in a sighting one bird expert is calling rare.

Lynette Kershaw was amazed by the sights of wildlife when she counted 63 bald eagles in a row at French Creek Marina in Parksville.

“I just sat on the breakwater for about 45 minutes, and the ones that I could see it was 63,” Kershaw told CHEK News, recalling the observation that happened Monday morning along a rock pile.

“We commercially fish, so we use that harbour a lot. Although there are eagles all around the French Creek area, I’ve never seen that many at once.”

So Kershaw pulled out her camera and captured footage of the convocation — a common term for a large gathering of eagles, which in this case included juveniles that looked like they were learning to hunt.

“Periodically, an adult would swoop down and pick something out of the water, and then a couple of juveniles would try to grab something,” she said. “It looked to me like they were almost teaching them how to get fish out of the water.”

Only Ann Nightingale with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory in Victoria finds the sighting quite rare because, most times, eagles gather like this in March or April during the herring spawn.

“It’s a bit surprising this time of year,” said Nightingale.

“If this was April, this would not have totally surprised me, but June is a little late for that to happen. But it’s almost certainly tied to some type of influx of food. The herring spawn is what gets that number of eagles together along the waterfront.”

While juveniles have mostly dark heads and tails compared to adults with more white, she says the youngins “stay dark for several years, so it’s not necessarily ones right out of the nest.”

Fledging is when birds develop wing feathers large enough for flight, which should happen “in the next few weeks,” explained Nightingale.

“Some of them maybe already have.”

Yet the bird expert says reports of midshipman fish in waters off Parksville could be what’s attracting the eagles.

“This time last year, around 40 were spotted at the same spot,” said Nightingale, noting the birds are often soaring over Vancouver Island.

“It’s pretty normal. We have a lot of eagles here, and the two times of the year when you’re going to see big numbers like that is usually during the herring spawn and salmon spawn,” she said.

“Other areas are, sadly, landfills. It’s all about the food. At Goldstream Park, I know sometimes they’ve had over 200 eagles in the park.”

While Kershaw’s count wasn’t that high, it was a sight that has her reviewing her video footage in awe.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” she added.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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