Bald eagles, America’s national bird, have been nesting here around Acadia National Park for a very long time. This bird is an inspiration to see flying overhead. Here at SeaCat’s Rest we have our resident pair of eagles which swoop over our house. Their nest is on the Twinnies–little islands just off the Bridge to Mount Desert Island (see the “A” below).
It’s a perfect place to nest, isolated from people, but close to a rich place for food for the birds. Just what do eagles eat? Here along the coast, it’s a combination of fish/seafood, and some small land mammals. The eagles have a routine flight circuit around the bay. Usually they hang out around our place in the middle afternoon. Yesterday it was between 3:30 and 5:00 P.M. We have a tall spruce tree where they routinely stop at.
The eagles are easy to intercept if you spend a day here. First you will hear the flock of crows or sea gulls announce the eagles’ arrival. They fly around and around the eagle, trying to chase it further down the coast. The eagles respond with a loud call like a squeeky wheel. When I think about it the eagle competes with the crows for carrion or dead fish and animals. It’s no wonder they try and get the eagles to leave the area. In the mornings you can often see the big birds hanging around our neighbor’s freshwater pond. We used to assume they were there for a drink of fresh water, but then we heard about how our neighbor leaves out food for the birds.
We have the eagles around here most of the year, but each year they go off on vacation when the weather turns really cold and their access to fresh water freezes up. In the months of January and February, the eagles fly south. They end up around western New York or the hills of Pennsylvania. I suppose you could call them snow birds like we call our elderly white haired neighbors that also seek warmer climates when it gets a bit cold downeast.
Benjamin Franklin didn’t want the eagle to be chosen as the national bird. His nomination was the turkey
Not all people wanted the bald eagle to be chosen as the national bird. Some felt it was a bad choice. Benjamin Franklin wrote:
I wish that the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country, he is a bird of bad moral character, he does not get his living honestly, you may have seen him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk, and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to its nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him… Besides he is a rank coward; the little kingbird, not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest…of America…. For a truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America…
a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on.
1967: Bald eagles south of the 40th parallel were listed under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, the 1966 statute that preceded today’s U.S. Endangered Species Act. A comparative study of eagle nesting during the 1960s in Alaska, Florida, Maine, Michigan and Wisconsin revealed relatively low numbers and chronically poor reproduction, especially in Maine’s remnant population and the subpopulation along the immediate Great Lakes shorelines.
In 1962, Charlie Brookfield and Frank Ligas (biologists with the National Audubon Society) began annual monitoring of bald eagles in Maine. Early efforts were limited, but their counts could only document 21-33 pairs of nesting eagles and only 4-15 eaglets fledged each year between 1962 and 1970. Average productivity among Maine eagles during the 1960s was only 0.34 eaglets per nesting pair: at least 60% lower than rates considered normal.
If you look carefully, you can spot the Twinnies eagle nest on this 1967 map….so “our” nest has been around for quite a long time.