2014-08-14 / Nature

Shoreline Visitors

By Jack Kelly


With a body length of nearly three feet and a wingspan of almost seven feet, a Bald Eagle is an impressive raptor that is hard to miss. This young specimen is resting on a rock after eating. (Photos by Jack Kelly) With a body length of nearly three feet and a wingspan of almost seven feet, a Bald Eagle is an impressive raptor that is hard to miss. This young specimen is resting on a rock after eating. (Photos by Jack Kelly) An immature Bald Eagle was recently observed in Newport’s Ocean Drive area. The large, powerful raptor was dining on a fish, possibly a schoolie bass, on an offshore rock. The age of the bird was estimated to be between two and three years old, considering its wing and body plumage. Adult plumage, featuring brown body and wings, a white head, white tail and striking yellow bill and feet, is attained around age five or six. The life expectancy of this massive bird is 25-30 years. Bald Eagles feed mostly on fish and waterfowl, but will sometimes take carrion if prey is scarce.

While Rhode Island has one known nesting pair of Bald Eagles, there are numerous successful nesting sites in southeastern Massachusetts. This species can live almost anywhere in North America where there is water. The Bald Eagle has made a strong comeback since its near extinction from the effects of the pesticide DDT, which was banned by Congress in 1972.

Aquidneck and Conanicut islands have recently witnessed an increase in the number of migratory birds traveling through the region on their long treks south.

Beavertail State Park in Jamestown and Newport’s Brenton Point Park have had multiple reports of early migration of species such as the bright yellow Prothonotary Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and others. Reports from both parks have identified shorebirds such as Red Knots, White-rumped Sandpipers, American Oystercatchers, Dowitchers, and a host of other breeds. Seabirds, including Black Terns, Common Terns, Forster’s Terns, Least Terns, and Caspian Terns, have been observed feeding and resting in the region’s wetlands and along beaches.


Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. A unique dynamic that may be witnessed during migration is the inter-species cooperation in foraging for prey. This amazing practice was on display in Gooseneck Cove on a recent morning. The tidal change brings many small fish into the cove on the high tide surge. A flock of 23 Double-crested Cormorants, which are diving birds, began to systematically drive a large school of bait fish into the shallow waters of the north end of the cove. On the grassy banks of the wetlands, a group of nine Snowy Egrets, 10 Great Egrets, and five Great Blue Herons awaited the arrival of their breakfast. As the various species cooperated in corralling their mutual prey, a passing flock of Common Terns joined the feeding frenzy, diving into the melee and emerging from the water with minnows. The feeding lasted about 10 minutes until the surviving members of the school managed to escape.



Great Egret uses its powerful, whip-like neck to spear a fish. Great Egret uses its powerful, whip-like neck to spear a fish.

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