Area bald eagles on the rise

The bald eagle population across the state is on the increase, as according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission there are currently 203 known active bald eagle nests, compared to the 156 active known nests in 2008.

BY KEVIN WOODRUFF

Bird lovers and nature enthusiasts will be happy to know that America’s bird, the bald eagle, is thriving in the state of Pennsylvania and locally.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the number of active bald eagle nests has risen to 203 total known active nests in 50 counties from 156 nests at the end of 2008.

Four such nests are in Wyoming County and one other in Susquehanna County.

Rebecca Lesko of the Endless Mountains Nature Center, an avid bird watcher, said that eagles are abound locally, and all people have to do to see one is simply look up.

“All people have to do is take some time and look up at the sky,” Lesko said. “Especially near any running water source.”

She said that bald eagles have been spotted at Lazybrook Park in Tunkhannock Township, and along the Tunkhannock Creek, Bowman’s Creek and along the Susquehanna River.

Lesko noted that she has personally worked with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to help them identify nests locally, and that anyone who knows where they are won’t tell anyone.

At this time of year, Lesko said that young of the year birds have made their way from the nests and are hanging out on branches surrounding it.

“The young birds haven’t fledged yet during this time of year,” Lesko said. “They will begin to fly in early August.”

At that point, eagles will begin to follow their parents around as they hunt for food, learning how to survive on their own.

She noted that local eagles have been known to fly to places such as Oxbow Lake, Lake Carey and Stevens Lake to hunt, in addition to sites along rivers and streams.

Lesko said that the growth in the bald eagle population locally has been tremendous.

“I was in my 20s before I ever saw my first adult bald eagle,” Lesko said. “And now I see them all the time. The population is growing constantly.”

Lesko attributes the population growth to the Clean Water Act and the fact that the bald eagle was put on the Endangered Species List.

“It’s a combination of things,” Lesko said. “Mainly that the water is cleaner now than it was in the 1970s, and the fact that they were put on the Endangered Species List.”

However, the bald eagle in the past few years has been downgraded from endangered to protected because of its growth in population.

According to Tim Conway, the information education supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the use of the harmful and now outlawed pesticide DDT was to blame for the loss of population.

“The pesticides made their way into the food chain and caused calcium deposits on the eagles eggs,” Conway said. “And when the mother would sit on the eggs they would break.”

Conway said that the PGC has done a lot of work related to revitalizing the bald eagle population, and has worked with private individuals as well as with Wildlife Conservation Officers to monitor the birds’ progress.

While 203 active nests is the known number in the state of Pennsylvania, Conway said that he can almost guarantee there are more.

Lesko noted that to help people recognize a bald eagle flying in the sky, it is important to realize that they have flat wings and glide evenly across the sky.

“They are often mistaken for turkey vultures,” Lesko said. “But the turkey vulture will have a v-shaped wing with tips.”

For more information on bald eagle watching, visit www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=978032&mode=2