Of the many beautiful and majestic birds seen in the Plantation, the Bald Eagle perhaps inspires us the most. Once endangered in the 48 contagious US States, our nation’s symbol has made a good comeback. From 300,000– 500,000 birds in the early 18th century, the Bald Eagle population fell to only 412 nesting pairs by the 1950s, mostly due to DDT pesticides, shooting, and trapping. With better protection efforts, their population has significantly rebounded to as many as 100,000 nesting pairs today. They’ve now earned the distinction of “least concern” and have become a conservation success story.
Watch Eagles Soar
The Florida Wildlife and Conversation Commission estimates that the State now has 1500 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles. Within the Plantation itself, most years, we will see two (2) or sometimes three (3) Bald Eagle nests. The eagles prefer the tallest live Pine trees with good views out towards open water. Nesting begins in late fall, and most chicks commonly hatch between early January and mid-February. The chicks grow quickly and fledge between March and April. Fledged juvenile eagles continue to hang around or nearby the nest often through May or even into July. Young eagles will not develop their characteristic white-headed adult plumage until almost five years of age. During this growth cycle, you’ll see Bald Eagles often harassing Ospreys to steal their fish catch. You’ll also see Great Horned Owls, another large majestic bird see in the Plantation, commandeer empty Bald Eagle nests.
For additional insight on Bald Eagles in the Plantation, read this research article by Mike Meyer, Ph.D. Research Scientist, Science Services at Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Sandy Gillum, ecologist, author.