First home-grown bald eagle in more than a century takes flight
SILVER SPRINGS – Nevada’s first native-born bald eagle in more than a century is a success story, said Larry Neel.
The nameless offspring is the first documented case of a bald eagle to be fledged in the Silver State for more than 120 years, according to Neel, a regional non-game biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
A weekly welfare check on the eaglet that hatched in April on the Silver Springs Bay area of Lahontan Reservoir found the brancher farther from its nesting tree than ever before.
“We know it has flown some distance,” Neel said Tuesday morning. Although the flying was not witnessed, he guessed it was about a 200-yard flight.
The gorged eaglet was perched on a tree about 300 yards from its nest in a cottonwood tree. It’s hard to view the raptor amid the foliage because of its uniformed dark brown body.
It won’t grow its trademark white head and tail until it’s 5 years old. Immature eaglets also have brown eyes and beak, unlike their adult counterparts whose beaks and eyes are yellow.
Wildlife officials believe the Lahontan brancher is a female because of the longer time it took it to fledge and the calmness it displayed in the nest.
Buoys keep away recreational vehicles and bird-watchers. Even wildlife officials stay outside the buoys placed 175 yards from the nest, which probably was built by a great blue heron and then adapted to the parent bald eagles’ needs.
The nest is about 3 feet tall and 2 feet across.
“We try to set the example and stay out the same as everybody else,” said Ernie Reimers, Nevada Department of Wildlife.
For the most part, people have respected the parameters once they are told what is happening on the lake, Reimers said.
Now the fledgling is at a critical point where it will have to learn to fish and care for itself. The adult birds are likely giving their offspring flying lessons to become adept at swooping down on its prey.
“It still has lots to learn,” Neel said.
It is obvious to wildlife officials that the parental protection instincts are dwindling as its young begins to fly. An adult bird protecting the fledgling stayed perched in a tree Tuesday and allowed officials to get closer than ever before.
The chance of survival looks good for this nameless raptor, Neel said. Of course, it will face the same perils of other migratory birds.
However at this point, wildlife officials say their role, much like a parents during teen-age years, starts to wane.
Once it begins to wander in another month or so, wildlife officials will not track the bird which became the United State’s national symbol in 1782, Neel said.
The eagles and offspring were first noticed in the tree last year after being spotted by a water biologist conducting an aerial survey.
“We weren’t expecting anything like this at all,” Neel said.
A baby chick was seen April 1997 but it is believed that at 10 weeks it was blown out of the nest during a windy Memorial Day. Although bald eagles are unable to swim, the roost sits in a dead portion of a tree over water for protection against ground predators.
This year, state park, Fish and Wildlife officials and the Nevada Department of Wildlife coordinated efforts to protect the offspring.
Unfortunately, one of the two eaglets is believed to have died in May. Nests typically contain two eggs which hatch in 35 days. But it is common for one of the offspring to die.
The young remain in the nest for about 75 days while both parents feed and the protect the nest.
Now, the adult bald eagles, which have a life span of about 45 years, are expected to continue using the same nest annually. It could mean a new eaglet every year, Neel said.
The last recorded active bald eagle nest in Nevada was in the 1870s on Anaho Island in Pyramid Lake.
Scientists believe there was never a large bald eagle population in Nevada. In the 1950s and 1960s there was a decline because of insecticide residue accumulated in fish nationwide.
But Neel said the bird, which is protected under the Endangered Species Act, is likely to be taken off the list because of its success in natural expansion.
“The population seems to be out of jeopardy,” he said.
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