Bald eagles: San Miguel Island —

Island Collections~

Collectors of bald eagle egg sets include:

Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology. WFVZ Bird Collections

San Miguel Island George Davisdon AND 1871 ANS-33149 Haliaeetus leucocephalus Birds
San Miguel Island George Davisdon AND 1871 ANS-33150 Haliaeetus leucocephalus Birds
San Miguel Island J. R. Pemberton WFVZ April 1, 1927 WFVZ-52456 Haliaeetus leucocephalus Eggs

In the News~

October 23, 1871 George Davidson, of the U.S. Coast Survey, writes to the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia: “...the largest box contains 19 bird skins from some island [San Miguel Island], but I wish to retain the eagle (old one) for myself” (Davidson 1871). Two Bald Eagle skins from San Miguel Island, both taken by Davidson, are in the collections of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia [ANSP 33149, 33150]. These are the earliest known specimens from the California Channel Islands. (Figure 44). In 1872 Joseph Leidy reports: “Skins of Haliæetus leucocephalus, two... from the West Coast of North America, presented by George Davidson” to the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia (Leidy1872).

August 1, 1877 Reverend Stephen Bowers visits San Miguel Island and notes: “Zoology. I have seen Bald Eagles, crows,14 sparrows, linnets and larks on the island” (Bowers in Benson 1997).

In 1884, the son of Hiram W. Mills,15 Dr. Howard D. Mills, 16, moved with his wife, Ida, and daughter, Myrtle, to San Miguel Island where they live for a few years. According to the Mills family unpublished memoirs (n.d.): “Somewhere between my father’s age of 4 and 12 [1869], his father [Hiram Wallace Mills] and his twin brother Warren Heman [Mills], took a 99-year lease of San Miguel and Anacapa islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. These islands were stocked with sheep and cattle. Grandfather [Hiram W.] hired Howard, father’s half-brother (who we now know as Uncle Doc) to tend the sheep and cattle on the islands with the help of my father… The three stayed on the island for three years. Their entertainment consisted of watching and hunting seals and otters. Father used to mention to us the fascination of watching large schools of sea lions and how they would come in and bask in the sun on the rocks. Father and Uncle Doc had a market for eagle eggs. The eagle’s nests were on the ledges of the rock cliffs that surrounded the islands. Uncle Doc would let father down these steep cliffs with a rope tied around his middle to hunt for the eggs. For every pair they would receive five dollars…”

June 13, 1885 [Santa Barbara Daily Independent:] “W. H. Mills, on his return from his island, known as San Miguel, about a week ago, brought across the channel with him two veritable half grown Bald Eagles. They are now in the possession of Casper Lehner, and this morning he forwarded them to Fisher’s slaughterhouse18 where they will feast from off the offal that naturally accumulates in and around such places. They were captured by Mr. Mills in the eagles eyrie, built high in the air among the basaltic peaks that look out upon the blue water, where it was almost impossible for a fox to venture without falling into the deep chasm below. To say it was a perilous undertaking is putting it mildly, and but few persons would undertake a similar task. The above species of eagles are very destructive to sheep19 that feed upon the islands. Hundreds of heads of sheep and lambs have been carried off in the talons of these birds to their young, and from parties who have resided upon these islands we learn that on the approach of the mother, the lugubrious cry of her offspring can be heard for miles, and the noise that reverberates from canyon to canyon bears a mournful and sad expression. They seldom visit the shores of the ocean, as the distance is too great.”

June 25, 1886 [Santa Barbara Daily Independent:] “The Bald Eagles on San Miguel are very destructive to sheep and lambs. A party leaves tomorrow on the Ocean King to interview them with guns. They will be absent from the city one month.”

July 1886 Clark P. Streator notes: “On this main island [San Miguel Island] the following land birds were noted: Bald Eagle (Haliæetus leucocephalus)…” (Streator 1888).

February 27, 1888 Minnie Waters, wife of San Miguel Island rancher Captain William G. Waters, notes in her diary regarding their ranch hand: “Adolph killed a large Bald Eagle; its head and tail were white, its wings brown. It measured 7-1/2 feet from tip to tip (Waters in Daily 1990).

June 24–29, 1892 Clark P. Streator visits San Miguel Island and notes: “Haliæetus leucocephalus. Rather common” (Streator 1892b).

1893 C. D. Voy made observation on San Miguel and Santa Rosa Islands in company with Lorenzo Yates and George W. Blunt sometime earlier, and submitted a manuscript to the California State Mining Bureau for publication, but it was rejected. In it, Voy notes: “San Miguel Island. Of the land birds found...we also see the large Bald Eagle.

June 9–23, 1910 George Willett visits San Miguel Island and notes: “We remained on San Miguel 14 days, being unable to leave as soon as we had planned on account of rough weather… Bald Eagles, duck hawks and ravens were common, but no ospreys were seen” (Willett 1910). Willett later writes of this trip: “Haliæetus leucocephalus leucocephalus (Linnæus) Bald Eagle… In June 1910 I noted many nests of this species, all of which contained nearly full-grown young, on Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands…” (Willett 1933).

March 8, 1920 Sidney B. Peyton collects a set of one egg off San Miguel Island [BMNH 1958.6.39]: “Prince Island, Santa Barbara County, California. Nest of large sticks, lined with sea grass and sheep wool, small on face of cliff, 50 feet down from top [egg slip].” Ex-Martin C. Badger Collection. Acquired by the British Museum through the collection of British oologist, Dr. David Moore Lindsay of Salt Lake City, Utah, who acquired it from Badger in 1922. Field notes of Lawrence Peyton add: “5 P.M. Prince Island. East end, small nest. Grass” (Peyton 1920).

March 31, 1927 Dudley S. DeGroot visits San Miguel Island with J. R. “Bill” Pemberton, Ozro W. Howard and Henry W. Carriger and notes: “At 9 A.M. we upped-anchor and set for Prince Island just off San Miguel and arrived at 3 P.M. Three Bald Eagles were seen roosting on top. All adults, and evidently feeding on young pelicans and gulls, etc. There were many cacti and ice plant etc. on top of the island… No signs of eagles nest...” (DeGroot 1927).

April 1, 1927 Dudley S. DeGroot explores San Miguel Island and notes: “Going along top of island (towards northwest) came upon two eagles nests, one of which was apparently in use but nothing in it except a couple of [illegible]. Three eagles in air. Found another eagle nest further along this same ridge toward the Northwest Point, but it did not appear to be in use… In afternoon went around to southwest side of island and there found an eagle and a duck hawk [Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)] both on the highest cliff visible. Eagle was on and we finally made the climb and Pemberton got a nice set. Both birds remained in air crying” (DeGroot 1927).

September 18–October 5, 1927 J. Elton Green visits San Miguel Island with Chester C. Lamb and notes: “September 25. Spent the afternoon hunting for eagle. Three different eagles were soaring and diving around the entrails of the sheep I had killed… September 26. Hunted on rocky points nearest to Prince Island… I didn’t see any eagles today, though I looked closely for them… Set five traps east of here for fox, all in gullies. One set for eagle near entrails of sheep. September 27. One set of traps for eagle—none… October 1. Hunted in boat in the morning… I saw three eagles at one time very high… October 3. Out in the boat this morning… I saw another immature eagle sitting on a rock at tide level. Also a pair of duck hawks. The hawks and eagles are very wild” (Green 1927).

September 18–October 5, 1927 Chester C. Lamb, on a trip to San Miguel Island with J. Elton Green, notes: “September 20. Mr. Roy tells me that he has seen Bald Eagles at different times and there is a rock near here called Eagle Rock where Mr. Brooks21 tells me a pair has nested from many years… September 24. Mr. Brooks told me that Bald Eagles killed young lambs, and he wished that we would kill all the eagles but as yet have seen none… September 25. Today I saw two Bald Eagles in the distance. Mr. Roy on another part of the island shot at one with a 22 rifle but did not get it, and Green saw three together, but was unable to get a shot at them… September 26. I had Green hide this morning near the place where he dressed the sheep yesterday which attracted the Bald Eagles, but they did not appear today… September 29. Bald Eagle flying in the distance… October 1. Some birds seen today… 1 Bald Eagle… October 2. Two Bald Eagles were seen flying far out over the ocean… I shot a sheep that had fallen over a cliff and injured its back. This we will use for bait for Bald Eagles… October 3. This afternoon spent some time on the cliffs with a rifle. Saw two Bald Eagles at which I shot, but they were too high, and a strong wind blowing” (Lamb 1927).

October 11, 1927 Joseph Grinnell writes to Chester C. Lamb: “You and Green certainly ‘brought home the bacon’, as regards the Island foxes. That was a beautiful ‘baker’s dozen’ of ‘em. Dixon says the skins are in excellent shape. It was too bad about the eagles being so elusive...” (Grinnell 1927).