LeRoy Pennysaver & News

LE ROY PENNYSAVER & NEWS - APRIL 02, 2023 by Lynne Belluscio For several years, people were watching a pair of eagles who were nesting in a tree on the south side of Oatka Trail. The nest was huge. Folks gathered to take photos and to watch the pair feed the young eaglets. It was a traffic hazard, and no parking or standing signs were put up. Some folks hiked though private property to get closer to the nest. So, no trespassing signs were put up. The pair nested there for five or six years and each year the nest got bigger. I discovered that eagles’ nests, which are correctly called “aeries” or “eyries,” can weigh up to a ton. Eagles have the largest nest of any North American bird and on an average the nest is about 8 feet wide and 13 feet deep. Both birds build the nest and will carry sticks as far as a mile to make the nest strong enough to hold both adults and a couple of eaglets. Each year, the pair of eagles can enlarge the nest by two feet. The largest eagle’s nest on record was found in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1963. It was 10 feet in diameter and 20 feet deep. It weighed 4,400 pounds. Another nest found at Metro Parks Vermillion River Reservation in Ohio, was 12 feet high and eight and a half feet wide. It had been in use for 34 years and was considered the oldest eagle’s nest known. It blew down in a storm in 1925. A replica of the nest has been built and is on display at the Carlisle Raptor Visitor Center in LaGrange, Ohio. Eagles’ nests are lined with moss, grass, lichen and sometimes sod. The part of the nest where the eggs are laid is called the “bole.” Eagles prefer to build their nests 50 to 150 feet off the ground with a good view for hunting and to ward off annoying hawks that could prey on the young eaglets. Nesting starts anywhere from three to one month before the female lays the eggs. A pair of eagles will have one “clutch” of eggs in a year. (Sparrows will have up to four clutches.) If a clutch is lost, the Eagles might start a second clutch. It takes 35 days to incubate the eggs and another 10 to 12 weeks before the young birds are “fledged” or can fly. There is usually a 50% survival rate. Both adult birds have a “brood patch” with no feathers, so their warm skin can come in contact with the eggs. The female spends more time on the nest and the male will bring her food. But she will leave the nest and the male will keep the eggs warm. If both adults leave the nest for a short period of time, they often will cover the eggs with sticks and grass to protect them from being seen by predators. On occasion a pair will build an alternative nest nearby and spend time between both nests. In 1940, Congress passed the bald eagle protection act making it illegal to kill them or hurt their eggs. In 1963, there were only 417 mating pairs of eagles in the lower 48 states. They were on the endangered species list. This was due to the use of the pesticide DDT which when ingested by the birds weakened the eggshells. Sometimes the shells were so thin that they would break when the birds incubated them. In 1973 DDT was banned and it has taken the American bald eagle many years to recover. There are an estimated 300,000 bald eagles in the 48 contiguous states today. They were removed from the endangered list in 2007. There are 425 pair in New York and at least two pair in LeRoy. A year ago, a pair had built a nest that could be seen from North Street Road just before the big curve over the bridge over the Oatka Creek. It was kept a “secret” but folks were keeping an eye on the nest. Then this year, after the pair had returned to the nest, there were frantic phone calls: “The nest is gone. It blew over!” But this pair was determined and began rebuilding almost the next day. As for the nest on Oatka Trail. It was abandoned. It was rumored that one of the pair had died. But then a new nest appeared, not too far down the road toward Mumford. The men with the long-lens cameras are out almost every day and sure enough, there is a bird on the nest, and nearby, another stands guard in the trees, or is flying overhead. Eagles have a wingspan of over seven feet. With a huge white head and white tail feathers they cannot be mistaken for any other bird. Even turkey vultures, with a wingspan of five feet and little heads can’t be confused. Eagles are efficient raptors eating fish and birds, small mammals, squirrels and rabbits. They also eat carrion and can be seen eating on deer carcasses. They are very territorial and can cover a range of 120 miles in a day. The bald eagle became the national bird of the United States on June 20, 1782. Five years later it was placed on the Great Seal of the United States. The eagle holds in one talon, olive branches, symbols of peace. In the other talon, the arrows of war. In his beak he holds a scroll with the motto of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum” in Latin for “out of many, one.” In 1945, after World War II, President Harry Truman changed the Presidential Seal and had the head of the eagle turned to the right, facing the olive branches. It symbolized that the country was seeking peace. Over the years, there have been many stories about the symbols in the eagle – the number of stars, the number of arrows, the number of feathers. Most of the stories are not based on facts. Even the story about Benjamin Franklin saying that the turkey should be the symbol of the United States has proven to be a stretch of the imagination. Franklin wrote his daughter Sarah that “for my own part I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country.” The eagle was “a bird of bad moral character” and was a “rank coward” as it is driven off by other birds. But let’s not forget July 20, 1969, and the crew of Apollo 11 when Apollo landed on the moon. “The Eagle has landed.” And then there’s the Philadelphia Eagles. Dare we forget the rock band “The Eagles,” formed in 1971. They eventually won six Grammys and in 2016 Don Henley and Timothy Schmit were honored at the 39th Kennedy Center Honors by President Barack Obama. This past Saturday, April 1, I drove past the old nest on Oatka Trail, and I think I saw a head peeking up from the nest. I couldn’t be certain. I’ll need to get out the binoculars, but believe it or not, there was a pink head sticking up. You know it’s that time of year. Aerie