A bald eagle has been spotted at Madison Lake.
The majestic bird has been sighted by nearby residents for the past several days in the top of a dead tree near the park’s beach.
Herb Browning and his wife, Jean, often spot the eagle while on their morning walk.
The retired couple live on Cheseldine Road and have been snapping photos of the national symbol, which was removed from the endangered species list in 2008.
One morning Herb looked into the tree and saw two birds.
“I was so amazed,” Herb said. “I’ve been telling my neighbors and everyone I could find.”
The pair could be scoping out the perfect spot for a future nest, said Donna Schwab, a wildlife biologist for the state division of wildlife. She’s not aware of any other nests in Madison County. The closest nest is in the Big Darby area near Plain City.
“This time of year they wouldn’t have an active nest, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be scouting out a potential new nest in the future,” she said. “We start getting reports of eagles in an area two to three years before nests show up.”
The birds could also be in the midst of their migration.
Though no longer considered an endangered species, the bald eagle still invokes excitement.
“It’s always exciting but not as rare as it used to be,” Schwab said.
At one time the state had an intensive nest-monitoring program. But the population is doing so well those efforts have been stopped.
“Pretty much you can see an eagle in Ohio any time anymore because the population is doing so well,” she said.
It wasn’t always so.
In 1975 and 1979, there were record lows of only four nesting pairs of wild bald eagles in Ohio. However, as a result of the combined positive effects of federal restrictions on pesticide use, wetland habitat protection, and vigorous reestablishment efforts by government, the state has been recording a steady increase in the number of breeding pairs of bald eagles since 1979.
Though eagles are no longer listed, they are protected by the Bald Eagle Act.
Native only to North America, the bald eagle is second only to the California condor in size as a wild bird of prey. An adult bald eagle has a snow white head and tail, brownish-black body, long heavy yellow beak, and wingspan that can exceed seven feet.
The head, tail, and body of an immature eagle, however, are brownish. While in flight, they show white on the underside of the interior of their wings. It takes up to five years for young eagles to attain full adult plumage.
Although most eagle nests are found in the western Lake Erie marsh region, eagles can be found throughout Ohio.
Bald eagles feed on both live and dead fish, waterfowl, muskrats, squirrels, groundhogs, and a variety of road-killed animals; some eagles learn to “pirate” freshly killed fish away from ospreys and dead fish from crows.
The 2015 midwinter flight surveys counted 79 adult eagles and 82 immature eagles for a total of 161 bald eagles.
Andrea Chaffin can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.