Stephen Scales and his wife, Janet, were driving up Spy Run Avenue, heading toward North Side High School, on a recent Saturday when Janet said she saw a bald eagle.
Stephen Scales was skeptical, but humoring his wife, he turned around. After driving south on Parnell, they saw a bald eagle perched in a tree.
“Other people saw it, too; there was a group of people all looking at the bird,” said Scales, who managed to get a photo. He said several people thought the bird had a nest with another eagle near IPFW.
On Wednesday, Scales took a hike and found the nest. One eagle was perched in a tree next to a massive stick nest. The nest was wedged into the upper crook of the tree between three large branches three-quarters of the way up the trunk.
On Friday, a bald eagle could be seen working on the nest. Every now and then it would look skyward and call to its mate, who was circling overhead. With a flap of its massive wings, the bird launched itself into the air. Speeding upward toward its partner, it rolled onto its back just below the other bird and tapped its talons with the other eagle's. Side by side, the pair flew off over the river, their calls carrying on the spring wind.
Mark Weldon, Animal Curator at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, said it is very possible for bald eagles to adapt to nesting in urban areas; it happens routinely in Florida.
If the pair is nesting here, it will be the second pair recorded in Allen County. Another pair has already been documented in 2010, nesting near Cedarville on the St. Joseph River. They are the first reported nesting pair in more than 90 years.
Weldon believes the eagles are related to those released over a five-year period in Monroe County from 1985 to 1989 as a part of the DNR's endangered-species restoration project, started by the Indiana Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program.
Over the five-year period, 73 bald eagle chicks were released at Monroe Reservoir. Katie Smith, of the Division of Fish and Wildlife Indiana Department of Natural Resources, says they are no longer banding all the chicks in the program, but the odds are good they came from there.
In 2009 there were 90 active nests of bald eagles in Indiana. Last year there were no nests in Allen County, but there were a few as close as Huntington and Wabash counties.
According to the Nature Conservancy's Web site, adult bald eagles can have a wing span of 71 to 90 inches (about seven feet), and average 27 to 35 inches tall. Females are larger then the males.
It takes an eagle four to five years to reach adulthood, at which time the eagle will return to within 50-100 miles of where it was hatched to build a nest of its own. Eagles tend to reuse their nests year after year.
Indiana's first successful nest was in 1991 on Lake Monroe, the first since 1897. Eagles were taken off the endangered species list in 2008 but are protected by state and federal laws.
“Eagles are a success story,” said Weldon.