Cleveland bald eagle success story: Industrial valley nest has two fledglings

August 22, 2018

Cleveland bald eagle success story: Industrial valley nest has two fledglings

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A pair of bald eagles that built the first nest in Cleveland’s industrial valley in more than a century have provided another chapter to their remarkable story: They are raising two young eagles that are being seen soaring high above the Cuyahoga River.

The brown-plumed raptors won’t acquire their white heads and tails for four to five years. And for now, they are staying in the vicinity of the nest, which is on the north end of the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation, said Karen Lakus, an historical interpreter for the Cleveland Metroparks, who first discovered the nesting eagles in February.

In most cases, the eagle parents will continue to deliver fish and other prey to their young until they learn to forage on their own, which occurs 4 to 10 weeks after leaving the nest. Bald eagles typically live for 15 to 20 years in the wild.

“These eagles are the toughest birds and such a success story, especially as we’re on the cusp of the 50-year anniversary of the burning river coming up next year,” said Wendy Weirich, the Metroparks’ director of Outdoor Experiences.

The nest is located in a cottonwood tree on a narrow stretch of green space situated amid factories, highways and landfills, but within sight of the nearby Towpath Trail.

“It goes to show that if you fix the world, you fix the environment for so many more species,” Weirich said. “The urban eagles have adapted. I hope they stay on this nest for years.”

With a few exceptions, this summer has proven bountiful for the nearly dozen eagle nest in Northeast Ohio. In addition to the Ohio & Erie Canal nest, two young eagles fledged from nests at the Mentor Marsh, at the Bath Nature Preserve and in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Brecksville.

The nest at the Pinery Narrows swamp in the national park has been active since 2006, and marked the first pair of the once-endangered raptors to nest in the Cuyahoga Valley in 70 years. Fourteen eaglets have hatched there since 2007.

The two juveniles at the Mentor Marsh are among five young eagles being seen regularly at the marsh, which is undergoing a successful remediation of phragmites and other invasive plants, said Becky Siekkinen Donaldson, a naturalist at the marsh’s nature center. In addition, an osprey nest at the marsh produced two young this summer, she said.

Other eagle nests were present at the Rocky River Reservation, at Bruce Yee Park in Eastlake, at Chippewa Lake, Lake Rockwell in Kent, and in Avon Lake.

The lone exception to the nesting success in Northeast Ohio is the Sandy Ridge Reservation in North Ridgeville where, in late April, a non-resident female attacked the nest, killing the resident female and eating the lone eaglet.

The bald eagle’s recovery can be traced to the banning of the pesticide DDT, the cleansing of the environment and expanded habitat. The eagles were on the brink of extinction in 1979, when there were only four nesting pairs in Ohio.

But since then, the eagle has adapted and thrived, producing 312 young eagles at 221 nests last year, according to surveys by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

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