CLINTON COUNTY — The Eagles have landed — and we’re not talking about the tribute band coming soon to the Murphy Theatre.
We’re talking the apex predator of North American raptors that local residents see soaring above Clinton County, and much of Ohio, on a near-daily basis.
Eagles — especially bald eagles — have become more prevalent in the last few years. Area residents told the News Journal via Facebook that they’ve spotted bald eagles everywhere from Wilmington to Sabina to Blanchester to Martinsville, and to Cowan Lake, Caesar Creek Lake and points in-between.
Both bald eagles and golden eagles — once considered endangered species — have made a comeback, although they are still protected under the Eagle Act, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
Bald eagles can live 20-30 years in the wild, and they mate for life, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Their nests are usually 50 to 120 feet high in a sturdy tree.
“It’s not uncommon to see them throughout the state at this time of the year,” said Kathy Garza-Behr, Wildlife Communications Specialist at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources District 5 Headquarters in Xenia. “They will generally be seen near large inland bodies of water or along river and creek corridors. With the warm winter, the water remains open, allowing them to feed on their main food source of fish.
“Caesar Creek Lake and Cowan Lake would be ideal areas to observe the bird currently. Nesting pairs will begin mating in about mid-February and many pairs may already be back in the state prepping for another breeding season.”
According to the 2016 ODNR annual bald eagle nesting survey, biologists calculated that, based on a survey of sample areas, there were approximately 207 eagle nests within the state in 2016, which was the same estimate as 2015.
In the past five years, the estimate of number of nests has averaged 203 per year. The average number of young in 2016 year was estimated at 327, which is above the five-year estimate of 294.
“Overall, bald eagles continue to flourish in Ohio,” according to the survey report. “In recent years the population seems to have stabilized, with only a 3 percent increase over the past 10 years. As a result of this success, management by the division remains minimal, with primary duties being working with rehabilitators that help injured birds recover, and enforcement of protective state and federal laws, such as the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.”