WENATCHEE — Joggers passing through the Horan Natural Area may see a unique sight in a strand of cottonwood trees: an eagle nest.
The eagle nest is the first ever documented in the natural area in at least the last 30 years, said Von Pope, Chelan County PUD wildlife programs manager. In the 1980s the PUD started closing part of the natural area during the winter so eagles could perch and forage at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers.
“So, here we are 30 years later and now it is a nesting issue,” Pope said. “Foraging for winter birds is no longer an issue, but now we have nesting birds and this is a new nest that has never been here before.”
It is a sign of success for the bird of prey that was on the endangered species list from 1967 and delisted in 2007, Pope said. The eagle was a protected species before the Endangered Species Act even existed.
“They were kind of what got the Endangered Species Act going,” he said.
In 1967, only 417 nesting pairs were documented in the continental United States, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2007 there were 9,789 nesting pairs documented.
The PUD does an annual count of wintering bald eagles in the Rocky Reach Reservoir, Pope said. The count dates back to when eagles were still listed as endangered or threatened.
Wintering eagles fly down to Washington state from Canada and Alaska when the lakes and rivers in those northern areas freeze, cutting them off from their food supply. Nesting eagles are laying eggs, incubating, hatching and then raising their young.
The PUD used to do a biweekly eagle count from November to March for wintering eagles, he said. It was easy then to differentiate wintering eagles from nesting pairs, because there were no nesting birds to monitor. Nowadays the two groups of eagles overlap with each other around February, so the PUD does the one count in January.
When Pope joined the PUD, though, in 2005, three nesting pairs were just beginning to appear around the Rocky Reach Reservoir, he said. Last year, in 2018 the PUD counted at least 10 nesting pairs around the reservoir.