Eagles are early snowbirds this year

Talk about early birds. Each October for the last eight years, a family of eagles have returned to a nest on the SPCA property in Largo. However, last week, the staff at the animal shelter spotted two of the birds flying between the trees. "Beth Lockwood, the executive director, ran into my area and yelled, 'the eagles are back!' '' said Marissa Segundo, public relations manager for the organization. "Sure enough, I went outside and saw them perched in a tree.''

This is the second pair that has made an early arrival. Two other eagles were spotted Aug. 1 at their nest behind Clearwater Christian College, said Joe Zarolmiski, a volunteer for the Audubon Society's Eagle Watch program.

Zarolmiski, 61, didn't plan on setting up his scope to monitor the eagles until early fall.

"I don't file reports to the Center for Birds of Prey until October,'' he said. "That's when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is focused on eagles in the state. For the eagles to come back now is really saying something.'' If you're lucky, in another six weeks, you could spot eagles in the throes of courtship, which will result in the female laying eggs in early fall, he said.

"They have built a tremendous, textbook nest,'' Zarolmiski said. "In a mostly urban region, the eagles have their own little environment in the pine trees. The adult eagles use the nearby Lake Seminole Bypass Canal for fish as well as to teach their eaglets how to hunt.''

And what exactly does this early return mean? "Some people see it as an omen, about how this means there won't be bad hurricanes this season, but … nothing like that has been documented."

Fast facts

• From October 2007 and May 2008, between 44 and 50 American bald eagles nested in Pinellas County.

• The pair spotted at the SPCA, mates for life, are descendents of eagles that migrated to the area hundreds of years ago.

• Nests can weigh more than 1,000 pounds, and are made up of tree branches measuring 6 feet long. Depending on the severity of the weather, nests can last more than a decade.

Eagles are early snowbirds this year 08/12/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 15, 2008 3:42pm]

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