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Friday, July 31st, 2009

Two pairs of Grand Lake eagles raise five eaglets

State and national trends show bald eagle numbers are growing

By Nancy Allen
Two pairs of American bald eagles living on Grand Lake are reproducing nicely, having reared a total of five eaglets this year.
Jill Bowers of St. Marys, a longtime volunteer eagle watcher for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, said the adult pair with a nest on the lake's southwest side in the Mercer Wildlife Area raised three eaglets while a second pair with a nest behind Prairie Creek housing subdivision on the lake's south side raised two. The eaglets hatched between April 8 and 10 and left their nests around the end of June, but can still be seen flying around the area.
The young eagles are the same size as their parents, but are a dark brown color.
"They (eaglets) are flying around. We see them almost every time we go," Bowers said of the Mercer eaglets. "I've heard of people by Prairie Creek seeing those babies too."
Bowers said the five young eagles are pretty much on their own now, when it comes to hunting. She said young eagles stay around their parents for about three months after leaving the nest.
"With it being almost a month (since they left the nest), we see the parents sitting by themselves side by side discussing what colleges they are going to send them to," Bowers quipped.
The first pair has nested on the lake since 2001 and the second pair since 2006. Together both adult pairs have now reared a total of 28 eaglets since coming to Grand Lake.
According to a news release from the Ohio Division of Wildlife, Ohio's bald eagle population continues to grow in numbers and expand in territory. This also reflects the national trend for bald eagles.
Biologists with the division of wildlife counted a record 215 nests in Ohio this year, the 22nd consecutive year that the state's breeding bald eagle population has increased. Last year Ohio had 184 nests.
Of the 215 nests this year, 113 were known to be successful in producing young eagles. Current reports from wildlife biologists and volunteer observers have estimated a minimum of 197 total young eagles produced in nests in 52 Ohio counties.
"As Ohio's bald eagle population continues to grow, we can expect more sightings and viewing opportunities throughout the state," said Andrea Tibbels, bald eagle project coordinator with the division of wildlife.
In the third year since being removed from the federal Endangered Species List, bald eagles have made a dramatic comeback. Since 1979 - when just four bald eagle pairs were found in the state - the division of wildlife has helped re-establish Ohio's eagle population through habitat development and protection, fostering of young eagles and extensive observation of eagle nesting behavior.
Most eagle nests in Ohio are located along the shores of Lake Erie, but now some are well inland, including nests in Mercer, Delaware, Hancock and Wyandot counties.
Counties with new nests in 2009 were Butler, Franklin, Hamilton, Logan, Medina, Montgomery, Paulding, Pike and Scioto. A majority of the nests occur on private land.
An average eagle nest ranges from 3 to 5 feet in width and 3 to 6 feet in depth. The nests are usually built high in tall trees. Both male and female eagles share in the incubation and feeding of the young, which begin to leave the nest at about 12 weeks old.
An adult bald eagle has snow-white head and tail feathers. Its body color is very dark brown, almost black. Young eagles do not achieve this appearance until the age of 5 or 6 years old. Until that time, they are uniformly dark brown from head to tail feather. Their undersides are mottled white with buff and cream blotches.
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