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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Standley Lake bald eagles have been celebrities for over 25 years

Standley Lake bald eagles have been celebrities for over 25 years

Of the estimated 14,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states, several have called Standley Lake home since 1993. The bald eagles caught the public’s eye the moment they arrived at the park. Speculation as to whether they would permanently stay began almost immediately.

Bald eagles have thrived since then at Standley Lake, and successfully reproduced within three years of establishing their nest.

“Eagles are much more sensitive to human activity and interference than other wildlife, so it is imperative to provide a wide range of space in order for them to reproduce successfully,” said Park Naturalist Lexie Martinez. “Standley Lake provides several hundred acres of protected land for the eagles to roam unbothered by human activity.”

Catching a glimpse of the eagles is easy to do without entering the protected area. To determine where to find them, it’s important to consider the time of year. From January through June, take a walk to the park’s eagle blind and you’ll likely spot them in a nest a half mile west of the blind. Bring binoculars!

There are two nests, both of which belong to the eagles. To the left of the eagle camera mounted on a wooden pole, you’ll spot their old nest high in a cottonwood tree. This nest was used from 1993 to 2017. The bald eagle pair decided to construct a newer and bigger nest approximately 75 feet north of the original.

For reasons unknown, in early 2019, the eagles started renovating the old nest again preparing for egg laying.

“Each February, the female lays one to three eggs that require constant care from both parents,” said Martinez. “The prosperity of these eggs depends on many factors, with two typically hatching. The pair successfully raised one juvenile this summer in the old nest, who fledged in mid-July, but has been returning daily to devour freshly caught fish and other various prey.”

Though two eaglets each season is most common, in the past two years only one eaglet has hatched. In 2015 and 2017, all three eggs laid successfully hatched, resulting in a cramped nest until they fledged in early July. Depending on how successful the parents perceive the growth of the juvenile this year, they may breed once again in the old nest.

Viewers can recognize the juvenile due to its dark brown plumage from head to toe. Bald eagles don’t grow the characteristic white head until roughly four years of age.

If the eagle blind is not a close enough view for you, you have several options. You can park on the north side of 100th Avenue adjacent to the dog park or rent a kayak (or bring your own) and paddle to the western portion of the lake. The latter option provides a better opportunity to view the eagles in flight, hunting for fish and consuming their catch on the shoreline of the coves.

To view the nests from home, please stay tuned as a new and improved eagle camera will be installed this fall!

As eagle banding at the park stopped more than a decade ago, the exact number of nesting pairs who have resided in the established nests is uncertain.

Since their genesis at the park, the bald eagles have been treasured and revered, with dozens of articles written about them, Facebook fan pages created in their honor and regular photographers capturing their elegance. Come out to Standley Lake Park and catch a glimpse of our national bird in action!

Photos courtesy of Standley Lake Park staff, Jon Berndt, Eric Scott and Michael B. Smith.

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