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Bald eagles find a new roost at Shenango River Lake site

Published: Mon, Jun 21, 2004

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The pair of bald eagles has two eaglets in its new nest.



CLARK, Pa. — The bald eagles that have been nesting on a man-made platform at Shenango River Lake for the last three years have abandoned it for a new home.

The large raptors are back at the lake this summer, but they're no longer nesting atop a platform built originally for osprey.

The eagles built their own nest "in a pretty substantial tree" just east of the platform off West Lake Road this spring, said James Deniker, land management officer for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

It's higher, and unfortunately for the public, more difficult to see because of the foliage, Deniker said.

The nest is in a propagation area where both foot and vehicular traffic is forbidden.

One of the adult birds still returns to the platform occasionally, but the pair isn't nesting there.

They have two eaglets in their new nest, Deniker said.

It's unusual for bald eagles to nest at man-made sites. They normally build in a tree and expand the nest each year.

Platform tenants

The 30-foot high platform nesting site was originally built to attract osprey (large fish-eating hawks) to the area, but it was taken over several years ago by a pair of Canada geese who tried to raise their brood there.

The eagles drove them off when they first came to the lake, but Deniker said a goose was nesting on the platform for a while again earlier this year.

"We're seeing more eagles around," he said, noting that this particular pair fledged one eaglet in 2001, the first year they showed up at the lake, and a pair of young in 2002 and three in 2003.

Many of those eagles seen around the lake are immature birds, he said.

Bald eagles traditionally return to the place of their birth to build their own nests. They migrate to warmer climates in winter but will stay in their home area as long as open water is available.

Shenango River Lake has a lot of fish available for them, and the eagles are gone for only a couple of months each winter, Deniker said.

Another pair

There has been a second pair of bald eagles nesting in a tree in the Big Bend area for the past couple of years.

They're back this summer as well, Deniker said, noting they have at least one eaglet in their nest.

That nest is even more remote and more difficult to see than the one off West Lake Road, he said.

Those eagles produced one offspring two years ago and two last year, Deniker said.

Pennsylvania doesn't band eagles as some states do, and game officers don't disturb their nests to see how many young are inside, so it's sometimes difficult to determine how many eaglets are in a nest, Deniker said.

The population seems to be growing at Shenango, Deniker said, noting that although eagles are territorial, Shenango is large enough to support several groups.

Eaglets grow to nearly full size in just six weeks but lack the distinguished white head and tail that mark mature bald eagles.

They don't take their first flight until about three months of age and remain dependent on their parents for food until 5 or 6 months old.

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