With spring only three weeks away, at least two pairs of bald eagles are making homes in Madison County.
Eagle nests have been spotted at the south end of Choctaw Lake and on private property near the intersection of State Route 38 and Arbuckle Road, north of London.
County wildlife officer Matt Teders confirmed Wednesday the presence of a nest at Choctaw Lake. But Teders is unsure if the eagles responsible are the same birds that scouted the lake’s north shore last year, or a different pair.
The nest is south of Old Columbus Road above the Deer Creek inflow. But it is not easily seen from the roadway. Once trees have leafed out, it will likely be hidden altogether.
On Wednesday, the Choctaw pair were circling protectively and one was sitting in the nest off and on, an indication that some eggs are likely present, according to Karen Norris of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
March is the incubation period for Ohio’s bald eagles with most hatches occurring in early-to-mid April.
Restoration of America’s national symbol is one of the country’s (and Ohio’s) wildlife conservation success stories, according to ODNR.
Bald eagles are no longer an endangered species. Although, they remain federally protected and wildlife biologists still keep an eye on nests.
That’s true in Ohio where the number of nests and birds has been on the rise since the late 1970s.
In 1979, there were four nesting pairs in the state — all along western Lake Erie. The March 2017 aerial eagle survey estimated there were 221 nests along waterways across the state. That number was up slightly from the 2016 estimate of 207.
An estimated 312 young bald eagles fledged from the state’s 221 nests last year. That number was better than the five-year annual average estimate of 293.
State wildlife biologists believe Ohio’s bald eagle population stabilized over the last 10 years, with an annual increase of 3.5 percent, according to the ODNR website.
Most eagle nests are on private property and are inaccessible to the public. That’s a good thing, since traditionally bald eagles are not fond of humans prowling around.
But that may be changing.
“We’re finding they are becoming more adapted and don’t seem to mind people too much anymore,” Norris said. Bald eagle nests are big, ranging from three to five feet in width and three to six feet in depth. They are usually found in tall trees along rivers and creeks where good supplies of fish are close by. Fish are an eagle’s favorite delicacy.
Once all eggs are laid, both male and female eagles share incubation duties. Both also care for and feed the hatchlings.
Young bald eagles begin leaving the nest in July. They are dark brown in color and do not develop characteristic white heads and tail feathers for about four years — when they are close to breeding age.
Eagle pairs stay together for life and return to the same nest every year, as long as that nest is intact, Norris said.
Anyone spotting an eagle nest (not just an eagle) is encouraged to report the sighting at ohiodnr.gov. Pictures may also be entered at the site.
Bald eagle habitat protection and research is funded by the sale of bald eagle conservation license plates, income tax check-off donations to the Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity Fund, and sales of the Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp.
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