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Bald Eagles complete nesting near lake - SmithvilleHerald.com : News

Bald Eagles complete nesting near lake

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Posted: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 9:31 am | Updated: 10:26 am, Wed Jul 4, 2012.

The huge brown stick nest was over 100 feet above the ground just north of Smithville Lake.

Estimated at nearly 4 feet tall and almost that wide at the top, the nest was vacant of the three eagles and the parents that raised them into fledgling maturity.

Several local bird watchers knew about the nest and watched there several times over the spring.

“The eaglets looked very big sitting on the nest a month ago,” said local bird watcher and naturalist Linda Williams. “That’s when I last saw them before they fledged away.”

Other watchers from the high school also had seen the large nest.

“It is a really big nest,” said high school secretary Candi Sutton. “It would be good to take photos of it.”

Many area residents know that the eagles are here on the lake in the winter. The Eagle Day’s event had well over 2,000 people come in early January.

Because it was such a warm and mild winter, many bald eagles didn’t come when they normally do and in as large of numbers as they usually do.

But several certainly came to area nests and the mated pair that hatched and raised their brood here did a fantastic job.

Bald eagles were native to the Midwest and the Smithville area. Their numbers declined in the 1800’s and 1900’s.

Because they were near extinction, all eagles were placed on the endangered species list in the mid-1900’s.

As their numbers began to rebound, the number of nests began to rise.

From a very low number of four documented nests in 1985 to 170 active bald eagle nests state wide in Missouri recently, the eagles have increased in the Smithville area also.

Because their heads don’t turn white until they are nearly five years old, bald eagles are commonly mistaken for golden eagles.

“There are no golden eagles in the state of Missouri,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Wildlife Biologist Mike Watkins. “We have only mature and immature bald eagles here.”

Awesome to see in the wild, the mature birds can dive for prey at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour.

Their eyesight is 5-8 times more powerful than human eyesight and they can even magnify prey such as fish from the sky.

Very large, the mature eagle wingspan is 14 feet from wingtip to wingtip.

Their feet and talons are larger than most men’s hands and they can hit their prey with twice the force of a 22 bullet.

Adding to the size of their nests annually, the mated pairs will return to their same nests to raise another brood of young.

Eagle viewers are encouraged not to get close to nesting activity in any way.

People are encouraged to only use telescopes and long lens camera equipment to view and take photos.

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