VAN WERT COUNTY – Recently, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources released a chart indicating the number of eagle nests reported in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. The map reports at least two verified nests in Van Wert County and many, many nests throughout the state. OSU Educator Curtis Young noted that the American Bald Eagle population, once scarce, is on the rise.

“There’s a multitude of reasons why the American Bald Eagle has made a tremendous come back from where they were on the brink of extinction not that long ago,” said Young.

Young pointed to conservation efforts including banning the insecticide DDT, which had major adverse effects on birds of prey, laws imposed to prevent people from feeding eagles on a regular basis, and also conservation efforts to protect breeding pairs as much as possible as efforts that have promoted the up-tick in the population of eagles.

In order to take a survey of Ohio’s eagle nests and create a map, ODNR recruited volunteer science professionals to observe and report the nests.

Once an eagle builds a nest, said Young, the structure will be in use for quite some time.

“They will use it for years upon years until the pair dies or the tree falls down; one or the other,” said Young.

On average, eagles lay one to three eggs per clutch and typically only have one clutch a year. Once an eaglet hatches, the new bird will use the nest for around 13-16 weeks.

“The immatures will stay with the parents for a fair period of time but once they are fledged and old enough to go out on their own, they get to go out and find their own habitat,” said Young.

A juvenile eagle is often mostly brown. It can take several years before the bird’s head and tail become white, as most are accustom to seeing.

“It can be upwards of three to four years before they fully mature and have that stereotypic white head and slight black body coloration,” said Young. “There are a couple of years where they are mostly brown with some others colors thrown in.”

Young advises those who spot an eagle nest to be cognizant of the eagles’ space. He suggests viewing the birds with binoculars from a distance.

Young notes that ODNR “discourages going anywhere close to the tree where the nest is located.”

“In most cases, the nests are fairly remote in a distance back away from public access, but occasionally they build pretty close to the edges of roads,” said Young.

While eagles are birds of prey, Young explained that there is little worry that an American Bald Eagle might make off with a family pet or that they might endanger live-stock

“Primarily the American Bald Eagle is a fish-eating bird. So, part of their ideal habitat is going to have a relatively large body of water where they can fish on a regular basis,” said Young. “With that said, that doesn’t mean that they don’t eat other things. They will go as far as eating carrion beside the road when it’s available and when the fish aren’t available.”

Young said this is more common with young and old birds who take advantage of whatever meat is around.

A bald eagle will travel around two miles from their nest looking for food.

A few years ago, a bald eagle was hit in Van Wert County on Lincoln Highway. Young advises citizens who see an injured eagle to stay away from it and call ODNR Division of Wildlife. It is actually illegal to pick up an eagle or to collect any part of the bald eagle, including feathers that fall from them naturally. It is illegal to possess bald eagle feathers unless the person is a Native American.

“Part of that was passed as law to protect them from poaching,” said Young.

ODNR reported 90 nests in Ottawa County around Lake Erie. Young said that that is quite a dense population, and noted that when eagles are too close together, they seek out new territories.

“They will naturally redistribute themselves, so the immatures will get pushed out of the area by the adults who already occupy that area,” Young noted.

With two nests identified in Van Wert County, Young said there is a safe bet there are at least two breeding pairs as well as possible juvenile eagles in the county.

“It’s not a very large population, although, I’ve seen them frequently around Van Wert,” said Young.