nature and wildlife photography by Joseph Classen

Eagles of Alaska Gallery

Dozens of bald eagles gather on the rooftop of a fish processing building on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Joseph Classen.

There are few things as majestic as witnessing a bald eagle in flight, soaring high through rugged mountain passes, gliding through fog-laden valleys, and seemingly floating over calm waters as a new day dawns. Seeing their astounding predatory skills in action, or even observing them while at rest, high in the treetops, fills one with a spirit of awe. Those massive wings, sharp talons, and intense, eagle eyes, command instant respect.

While the mighty bald eagle is a symbol of all that is wild, free, and regal, the reality of their existence is something quite different from what many imagine. In truth, the eagle’s life is not so liberated, but rather, it is one of harsh survival and dependence upon the cycles of nature. During the summer months in places like Kodiak, Alaska, eagles thrive and feast like kings on an unlimited supply of protein rich salmon, which they gorge themselves on daily. However, as summer turns to winter and the last of the spawning fish die and disappear, the eagles become nomads, traveling the trail of blood, desperately searching for the next meal, no matter how small or unpalatable.

As the land becomes snow-covered, desolate, and devoid of easily attained food, these magnificent birds will invade urban areas, gather around dumpsters, fishing boats, processing plants, and parking lots, fighting over tidbits of food…sometimes to the death! If an eagle is lucky enough to find a road-killed animal, it will plunge its resplendent white head into the body cavity and consume the carcass with fervor, slinging gore and entrails about in a savage display.

Despite the graphic, sometimes violent nature of their struggle for survival, especially in winter months, the eagle is in many ways much like we humans. Like people, the lives of eagles are filled with beauty and grace, yet, also many challenges and hardships. Like many a love-struck young man or woman, the eagle pursues a mate through many fascinating courtship rituals. And, once an eagle has found his or her soul-mate, so to speak, they stay together for their lifetime. Eagles work together at building a home nest, have distinct duties as far as hunting food, raising their young, etc., and act as a team in all they do. The similarities between the lives of eagles and we humans is perhaps one of the many reasons I have always felt such a connection to them and have spent much of my time photographing them. While I have photographed eagles all over the great state of Alaska, all of the photos featured in this gallery are from Kodiak, as there is a great abundance of eagles on the island. I have studied eagles intensely on Kodiak, and I have come to know exactly where they will be on any given day. In fact, I even put together a little instructional video about photographing eagles that you can view at the bottom of the page after the eagle photos.