Monday, May 10th, 2021

Eagle Baby Boom

As many as 30 eaglets could be born this year

By William Kincaid
Photo by Dan Melograna/The Daily Standard

An American bald eagle perches in a tree along the walking path in West Bank Park in this Feb. 12 file photo.

A longtime eagle monitor said there's a good chance more than 30 eaglets were introduced to the world in mid-March in Mercer County.
Jill Bowers, a local eagle watcher who has monitored the local bald eagle population since 1996, including a lenghty volunteer stint with Ohio Division of Wildlife, said she knows Mercer County is home to 16 to 17 nests. She actively watches seven nests located around the lake.
"Our birds typically would lay their eggs the middle to the end of February," Bowers told the newspaper.
After 35 days ensconced in shell, eaglets began hatching in mid-to-late March. Eaglets normally emerge from their eggs 24 to 36 hours apart, she said. Bald eagles lay one to three eggs.
"I think most of the nests have two and maybe a couple have three," she said.
Bowers said at this point in the eaglets' development, they may be as big their parents, just not as heavy.
"Based on looking at the nests, the eaglets right now are beginning to get their black feathers," Bowers said, noting the birds's heads and tails won't turn white for three years.
Until at least mid-July, the eaglets will remain in the nest.
"They're trying to keep warm and eat, and of course, what goes in has to come out," Bowers said.
Hunting food is an all-day affair for the parents, especially in the mornings and evenings, Bowers said. The parents typically bring home fish but Bowers said she has seen adult eagles plop a rabbit and a snake into the nests.
"If you've got two babies in the nest, they eat about a pound to a pound-and-a-half, maybe, a day. That's a lot of fish," she said.
Adult eagles will tear up and feed the food to their offspring during their first 10 days out of the shell. Then, it's up to the eaglets to fill their own bellies.
"By now it's like a cafeteria. The (parents) bring the food, they put it on the nest and the (eaglets) have at it," Bowers explained.
Near the end of May, the eaglets probably will been seen flapping about, jumping up and down in the nests and hopping from limb to limb to strengthen their wings.
The birds will leave the nests and take a stab at flying in July. In September through October, the eaglets will take off on their own.
Bowers said 40% of eaglets don't make it through their first year.
"When you are in this 3- to 5-foot bedroom and all of a sudden you leave, how are you going to hit that nest? How are you going to hit that limb to land and then how do you know how to catch food?" she asked. "They don't understand cars and electric wires and trains. There's just all kinds of things for a baby eagle not to be able to survive."
Noting it may be the mother coming out in her, Bowers said she believes the parents care about the welfare of their eaglets.
"When you watch both parents on the nest and how they walk around so they don't tromp and squish a baby, I think they have a natural instinctive bond," she said.
The state ended its volunteer eagle monitoring program more than a decade ago because the population was doing so well.
"The eagles were doing fine on their own. (The state) went on to other species that they need to reintroduce or to monitor," she said.
But Bowers enjoys watching the eagles and continues to monitor them to satisfy her own interest.
"I think they're just such a majestic bird. To watch that bird care for its babies and then fly off, catch a fish, (it's amazing)," she said.
ODNR in 2020 reported the number of bald eagle nests in Ohio has skyrocketed 151% during the previous eight years. Of the 707 nests confirmed in February and March 2020, 16 are in Mercer County, compared with three in 2012. Auglaize County this year has four nests. It had none in 2012, according to an ODNR report.
Productivity surveys were not conducted in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ODNR's website.
Last year, Mercer Wildlife Area Manager Sean Finke said two bald eagles nests are in the 1,408-acre Mercer County Wildlife Management Area in Montezuma, one near Celina Lynx Golf Club, two by Behm's Landing, one near Aqua View Estates near Prairie Creek, three by the Wabash River and one south of Menchhofer Woods.
Hecht's Landing and Windy Point in Montezuma are excellent places to observe bald eagles, Dave Shaner of St. Marys, a self-taught, avid photographer who's been capturing images of Grand Lake wildlife, primarily bald eagles, for well over a decade, told the newspaper earlier this year. So too is the stone pier near Boardwalk Grill along West Bank Road in Celina.
It is illegal to disturb bald eagles. People are to stay at least 100 yards away from the bird's space, according to ODNR.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1978 listed the species as endangered throughout the lower 48 states, except in Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin where it was designated threatened.
Due to conservation efforts and added protections, the number of birds rebounded to such an extent the bald eagle was removed from the threatened and endangered species list in 2007.
The two main factors that led to the recovery of the bald eagle were the banning of the pesticide DDT, which made egg shells too brittle to hatch, and habitat protection under the Endangered Species Act for nesting sites and important feeding and roost sites, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says.
Photo by Dan Melograna/The Daily Standard

An adult eagle stands on its nest near U.S. 127 south of Celina in the 1,408-acre Mercer County Wildlife Management Area in this April 3, 2020, file photo.

File Photo/The Daily Standard

Two bald eagles perch in a tree along U.S. 127 south of Celina in this Jan. 11 file photo.

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