Fly like an eagle: County has several spots to see bald eagles

By Mandy Mahan

The bald eagle, America’s national symbol, was recently removed from the Indiana category of species of special concern.

After years on the federal endangered species list, the bald eagle was removed in 2007. Indiana followed the lead by removing the national symbol from the state endangered species category in 2008 when it was placed in the special concern category.

Although the bald eagle has been removed from these lists, it is still protected under several laws, such as the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

The Paper of Wabash County spoke with Lynnanne Fager, interpretive naturalist for Upper Wabash Interpretive Services to find out more about the history of bald eagles.

“The two main reasons they were put on the endangered species list in 1973 was habitat loss and DDT in the waterways,” said Fager. “Once DDT and other heavy metals were banned, the nation’s water quality gradually improved to a point where it was safe to bring eagles into the state under the reintroduction program. Between 1985 and 1989, 73 bald eagle chicks were brought into Indiana from Alaska and Wisconsin, raised at Monroe Lake in the hacking towers. Once released, and the birds reach adulthood, the birds typically return to around a 100 miles radius to build nests. Our first successful nest after reintroduction occurred in 1991, nearly 100 years after documentation of the last historical nest in Indiana.  The goal was 50 nests. In 2010, with 120 eagle territories, Indiana Fish & Wildlife discontinued monitoring of nests and relied on citizens to report nests. As of 2020, there were over 350 nests reported within the state.”

Fager told The Paper that the best ways to keep the bald eagle protected and off endangered species lists are to follow all laws in place which prevent disposing of toxic chemicals or waste into the waterways, for citizens not to approach the birds, roosts, foraging areas or nests, staying a minimum of 330 feet away.

“Citizens become stewards of the land, allowing needed habitat to remain for not only eagles, but other species as well. We’re all connected,” she said.

The Upper Wabash Reservoirs, which include Mississinewa, Salamonie and J. Edward Roush are all viewing areas for the bald eagle because they have dams.

“Under normal winter conditions, the dams release minimum amounts of water, keeping the tailwaters low. There is always water being released, along with fish. These areas provide ample food for the birds in shallow waters they enjoy hunting.

During the winter months, due to colder temps in the north, and freezing waters, the eagles will fly south which gives us a higher population during the winter months,” said Fager.

People interested in viewing the bald eagles are usually encouraged to check the dams, along rivers and at the Mississinewa and Salamonie beach areas.

When it comes to the best time to view the eagles, many factors come into play, including wind, rain and sun. Eagles are mostly active during the day, nd with their primary source of food being fish, they can often be seen around a large water source, either flying or perched in trees near or over the water. According to Fager, sunny days with warm air currents prompt the eagles into the sky.

Citizens are invited to participate in the 14th annual Sunrise Eagle Watch at Mississinewa Lake on Saturday, Jan. 16 at 6:30 a.m.

During the event, after a drive through breakfast of cinnamon rolls and coffee at the Mississinewa Miami SRA Boat Ramp, participants will caravan to Indiana’a largest documented Bald Eagle Winter Roost to watch birds take their morning flight.

Registration is required and limited participation is available. To register, call Upper Wabash Interpretive services at 260-468-2127.

When viewing bald eagles, it is important to take part in ensuring the birds’ safety by staying 300 feet away, staying quiet and not disrupting the birds and not trespassing on private property. According to Fager, most desired photos are taken with a large camera lens that requires a tripod, and can be more easily seen with binoculars or spotting scopes, but it is still enjoyable to watch eagles without any optic aid or camera as well. 

Posted on 2021 Jan 12