GREENFIELD — A pair of bald eagles are rebuilding their nest in a sycamore tree that sits just 100 feet from their previous habitat, which was destroyed during a storm in September.
Hancock County residents and naturalists said they’re pleased the birds — who have nested in Greenfield for about three years — chose to rebuild locally. The eagles have gained a local following, spurring the creation of a Facebook fan page with thousands of followers and attracting dozens of wildlife enthusiasts and photographers to the nest site.
Area residents feared the eagles would fly to a new community after a powerful rainstorm downed the previous sycamore tree that held the birds’ nest, leaving the eagles and their eaglet unharmed but without a home.
Amy Kearns, a wildlife biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said she’s not surprised the eagles recovered so quickly.
It’s not unusual for eagles’ nests to fall out of trees, she said. Though many eagles fly south when ponds and lakes freeze over during the winter, they return to the same sites year after year to lay eggs and add sticks to their nests, which can grow to weigh thousands of pounds, she added.
The nests often get so heavy that they send trees toppling over, Kearns said.
But by nature, the eagles are resilient and adaptive to circumstances, she said.
“Both birds will usually build it together, and I’m sure they could have something adequate put together within a week or two,” Kearns said.
Scott Johnson, a local DNR conservation officer, said he, too, isn’t surprised the eagles rebuilt nearby, and he’s glad they selected a site that’s visible to passers-by, who visited the area frequently to catch a peek at the eagles and their eaglet.
Though the nest sits on private property, it can be seen from the intersection at Apple Street and New Road, Johnson said.
“It sticks out like a sore thumb,” Johnson said. “It’s nice to see that they built right there within the vicinity of the previous nest. It shows that they’ve selected that area, and they’re here to stay.”
Winter is one of the best times to bird-watch because there’s little foliage left on the trees to obscure the birds, Kearns said. Eagles can usually be spotted on branches toward the tree’s top, she added.
“Once you see one, it’s hard to mistake that big white head and yellow beak for anything else,” Kearns said. “It’s pretty distinctive.”
Jason Lee, an amateur photographer who visits the nest site frequently to track the birds with a long telephoto lens, said the eagles have been rebuilding for about four weeks.
Though the eaglet that hatched from the nest earlier this year is now independent and has flown off, Lee said he saw another full-sized eagle land on the branch of a tree near the site last week.
The sighting didn’t last long, though, as the two nesting eagles shooed the other bird off quickly, Lee said.
Lee also manages the Greenfield Eagle Watch Facebook page, on which several users have reported seeing a bald eagle in the New Palestine area.
Though these sightings are likely eagles passing through the county on their flights south for the winter, Lee said it’s still a thrill to see the birds so regularly.
“We’re definitely lucky to have all this activity,” Lee said. “It’s not something everyone gets to see in their neighborhood.”