Destruction of eagles' nest hatches causes concern among Indiana Natural Resources officials

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GREENFIELD, Indiana — A pair of bald eagles that had called Greenfield home for several years lost their nest when powerful storms whipped through the county during the weekend.

Wind gusts reached up to 26 mph Saturday as a brief but powerful rainstorm crossed Greenfield. The tall sycamore tree on the northeast side of Greenfield that served as the eagles' habitat crashed to the ground, prompting concern among area residents who had for months kept eyes on the nest and enjoyed tracking the birds' activities.

But there's good news: Wildlife officials said neither adult eagle nor their eaglet appears to have been harmed in the incident, and they're likely to build another nest nearby.

Though eagles are known to return to the same site to lay eggs year after year, it's not unusual for their nests to fall out of trees, and it's easy for the species to recover, said Amy Kearns, bird biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

"This happens often, and luckily, it's the perfect time of the year for it to happen," Kearns said. "There weren't any eggs or chicks in the nest, and they have all fall and winter to build another nest up. After all's said and done, it really shouldn't affect them at all."

Some eagles begin building habitats in the early fall and add to them until nesting season comes around in the winter, Kearns said. In the short term, she added, the eagles likely will seek shelter in nearby trees.

Local DNR conservation officer Scott Johnson, who examined the site Monday, said he saw one of the adult eagles perched in another tree on the property and predicts the birds will rebuild somewhere close by.

"They chose this area for a reason, and eagles have amazing ways of bouncing back," he said. "They're an incredibly smart species."

Jason Lee, a local photographer who launched the Facebook page "Greenfield Eagle Watch," which has more than 3,500 followers, has documented the birds regularly since their arrival.

Lee was encouraged when he saw the eaglet Sunday morning after having heard the tree holding the nest had fallen.

The tree had begun to rot, making it vulnerable to the storm, Johnson noted. That, coupled with the weight of the eagles' nest and strong gusts of winds, was likely all it took to bring the tree down, he said.

Johnson estimated the nest to be between 5 and 6 feet in diameter and said eagles' nests can grow even larger than that.

As eagles continue adding to their nests, some grow to weigh thousands of pounds, Kearns said.

Sarah Taylor, who lives on the property adjacent to the nest site, said she hopes the eagles don't stray far.

"It's been a lot of fun tracking their progress," she said. "Eagles aren't something you'd expect to see out here, so it was really a treat for us."

She said the eagles have created quite a stir throughout the community since they arrived — with passers-by stopping to gaze on the birds and snap photographs.

"Whenever we'd come up the road to our house, we'd wonder how many cars we'd see pulled over to the side, trying to see the eagles," she said. "It kind of became a running joke."

Johnson said he's already heard a lot of concerns from residents worried about the eagles. He's shared with them his optimism for the birds' future.

"Everyone's really hopeful they'll stick around," he said. "I bet they'll find a way. There are a lot of good trees and ponds for them to choose from around here."

Source: The (Greenfield) Daily Reporter,

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