We often think of bald eagles as solitary animals, and that's not surprising: the iconic birds of prey are almost always photographed soaring solo. But Chuck Hilliard of Light of the Moon Photography has seen a different side ... communal roosting! 

Year after year, Hilliard treks up to Washington State's Skagit River, where bald eagles are known to congregate in the winter. "They come to the rivers during the winter to eat salmon that are breeding and dying," he explains.

After a cold snap in 2011 made Skagit's fish inaccessible to the raptors, Hilliard decided to try another locale, the nearby Nooksack River. It was there that he photographed this spectacular sight: 55 eagles in a single tree! Taken aback by the spectacle, Hilliard sat with the birds for some three hours.

"It isn't unusual to see hundreds of them in that area during December and January. But the most I have since photographed in that tree is 25." 

Because the roosting sites are often revisited, they are now protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the trees are thought to serve a social purpose for pair bonding and communication amongst the eagles.

Hilliard's photographs have been shared over 175,000 times since he initially uploaded them to his Facebook page. He hopes they'll inspire people to learn more about the birds, who are making quite the comeback.

"I am happy to share such a wonderful sight. This is, in a way, proof of what we can accomplish when something is important to us."