Original- Bald Eagle Tail Feathers

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Original- Bald Eagle Tail Feathers

150.00

Bald eagles gain their iconic white heads and tails when they are five years old. Before then, they’re a rich brown color with varying amounts of white streaking. I chose to illustrate the tail feathers because they show this transition nicely. The feather on the left is from a fledgling bird that is under a year old. The middle feather is from a three year old bird, and the one on the right is from an adult that is at least five years old.

While working on this project, I learned something new about eagles: there’s more to the story about how large their feathers are than I originally thought! Bald eagle tail feathers can be between 10-14 inches in length. That’s quite a range. Like most raptors, the females are larger than the males. Subspecies that live in the southern end of their range are also smaller than those that live in the far north. The really fascinating thing is that juvenile raptors can have longer tail feathers than the adults! Scientists think it may help the young birds with maneuverability while they’re still perfecting their flying skills.

Instead of drawing these feathers from life (I don’t have permits to poses bald eagle feathers), I used reference photos provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These photos are only labeled with the age of the bird that provided the feather, not the sex or location that it lived. So, the three year old feather could have been a female from the north, and the adult feather could have been a male from the south. There are so many variables at play that we can’t be sure, but it is fun to think about.

I hope you enjoy these feathers as much as I enjoyed working on this project!

Original watercolor & ink on 12 x 16 inch paper. All archival.

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