World’s largest congregation of eagles begins in B.C.

The world’s largest congregation of bald eagles happens on the river in the little community of Harrison Mills

Along the Harrison River in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, thousands of eagles are gathering to gorge on salmon that have reached the spawning ground.

David Hancock, a biologist who has been studying eagles for about 65 years, says the world’s largest congregation of bald eagles happens on the river in the little community of Harrison Mills, about 100 kilometres east of Vancouver.

“Last Saturday morning I did a survey off the river and there were just over 7,000 eagles in the area,” he said in a recent interview. “This is the most we’ve ever had in November.”

About 35,000 eagles gather in the lower Fraser Valley between November and February, and some days about 2,000 to 3,000 raptors move in, Hancock said.

“It’s the biggest single accumulating area because the Harrison River is the single most productive river,” said Hancock. “It’s the only river in Canada called a salmon stronghold river.”

The Harrison River is a tributary of the Fraser River and runs about 18 kilometres in length.

READ MORE: Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival explodes in popularity, draws thousands to Mission, Harrison Mills

READ MORE: Record-breaking bald eagle numbers predicted in Harrison Mills this fall

As rivers in Yukon, Alaska and northern British Columbia ice up food supplies freeze too, which forces the eagles south.

“Our salmon are just beginning to die so the table is set down here,” said Hancock.

But there are other factors that contribute to the number of eagles that descend on the area.

“Sometimes the north doesn’t freeze up and the eagles don’t need to come,” he added. “Some years we don’t get as many salmon so the table isn’t as generously set.”

The eagles remain in the area until February although a few thousand may fly further south into Washington, Oregon and California as winter deepens.

Hancock said this year, the Harrison River does not have enough salmon.

“This was not a good year for spawning,” he said.

When the salmon carcasses are gone, he said the eagles feed on spawned herring and oolachin, a smelt.

In about four years the area might not see as many eagles because overharvesting means there won’t be as many salmon carcasses for them to feed on, he said.

Hancock said in the last two decades researchers have learned about the connection between the huge trees in forests in the area and spawned salmon. The carcasses of spawned salmon give nutrition to the soil, he added, which helps trees grow.

“Without those salmon there are no big forests,” Hancock said. “That’s the lesson we learned in the last 20 years of ecology.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Salmon runs produce highs and lows on Vancouver Island this year

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada releases information bulletin

Customers at new Quality Foods finding spare change for Coins for Kids

Charity getting a boost from new bigger, busier Harewood location

Handmade Christmas presents helped support schools foundation

NANAIMO – Handmade for the Holidays craft fair was held Friday and Saturday at NDSS

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: It’s better to solve noise problem than to move away

I think it is preferable to try to solve a problem with negotiation and advocacy, says letter writer

Gift givers encouraged to ‘give library’ this holiday season

Specially packaged library cards available for Nanaimo residents

VIDEO: This B.C. school leads country in vaccine donations to UNICEF

Federally funded Kids Boost Immunity uses quizzes to earn vaccinations

Chamber wants to know about Nanaimo’s best Christmas light displays

Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, News Bulletin partner on Spirit of Christmas Light Up

Boeser scores 3, Pettersson has 5 points as Canucks hammer Blues

Vancouver picks up impressive 6-1 win in St. Louis

Snuneymuxw chief says women’s transition house ‘responds to a need’

Province provides update on indigenous women’s shelter project in Nanaimo

Nanaimo councillors nudge potential tax increase down to 4.97 per cent

Budget deliberations continued this week, e-town hall meeting is Dec. 10

B.C. police stop drunk driver who offered up burger instead of ID

Roadblock checks over the weekend found at least two other impaired drivers

In Canada, the term ‘nationalism’ doesn’t seem to have a bad rap. Here’s why

Data suggest that Canadians don’t see the concept of nationalism the way people do in the United States

Small quake recorded west of Vancouver Island

No injuries or tsunami warning after 5.4 rumble felt some 400 kilometres from Victoria

B.C. suspends Chinese portion of Asian forestry trade mission due to Huawei arrest

Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was detained at the request of U.S. in Vancouver

Most Read