The bald eagle's diet is mostly fish, mainly herring, flounder, and salmon. Eagles are opportunistic and will also eat ducks and seagulls, small mammals, shellfish and carrion. Spawning salmon are important in late summer, when large hungry chicks are in the nest, and when those novice hunters first strike out on their own.
Eagles travel great distances to reach abundant food sources, and can sometimes be found in remarkable numbers. In the Chilkat Valley, 80 miles north of Juneau near Haines, thousands of bald eagles gather in the late fall to feed on spawned-out salmon. A short unfrozen section of the Chilkat River supports a late run of chum salmon, which attracts eagles from hundreds of miles away.
Eagles on the Chilkat are known to have come from as far away as Prince William Sound, 600 miles to the west; from Willapa Bay in Washington State, 1,000 miles to the south, and from Besnard Lake, in Saskatchewan 1,300 miles east.
A spring run of hooligan, a fish related to herring, in Berners Bay north of Juneau draws hundreds of eagles and other birds. Like the fall run of Chilkat chums, it's particularly attractive and important because it comes at a time when other food sources are scarce.