Bald eagles are more numerous in Pennsylvania than anytime within the last fifty years. That means there are more opportunities to see eagles for wildlife watchers. That watching comes with a price. Get too close to an eagle nest and the disturbance can be enough for the eagle pair to abandon the nest. With bald eagles into their nesting season now be careful of human intrusion near the nest site. We can enjoy eagles, but it is better to do so through good optics. The Pennsylvania Game Commission offers the following etiquette as guidelines for eagle watching to minimize their disturbance:
• Stay back! Keep at least 1,000 feet from an active nest, roost, or feeding area. Use optics like binoculars or a telescope to view the eagles at a distance.
• Quiet please! If you must talk, whisper.
• Cover up! Use your vehicle or boat as a blind; eagles often are more alarmed by pedestrians.
• Be cool! Avoid sudden movements — and movements directly toward the eagles or the nest — while on foot or in a vehicle or boat.
• No flushing! Don’t make the birds fly. Flushing an eagle off a nest may expose the eggs or young eaglets to cold or wet weather or a nest predator. It also wastes precious energy and may cause them to leave a valuable meal behind or abandon a nest that they are constructing.
• Pay attention! Watch how the eagle reacts to your presence — if it acts agitated, vocalizes repeatedly, or starts moving away, you are too close!
• Stay out! Respect restricted zones. They protect eagle nesting areas. And you’re breaking state and federal laws if you enter them.
• Privacy please! Respect the privacy of the landowner. Don’t tell everyone about a new eagle nest. It will attract people to nesting areas who will not use proper etiquette and other unnecessary attention to a nest. If you unexpectedly stumble onto an eagle nest, or hear an eagle vocalizing overhead, leave immediately and quietly.
If you find a new nest, report it to the PGC endangered bird biologist, Patti Barber, including details about location. Her mail is: email@example.com. To learn more about bald eagles and eagle-watching in Pennsylvania take advantage of the wealth of information on the PA Game Commission’s web site. See: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=978032&mode=2
Few sights are more thrilling than a bald eagle at its nest or in action along a shoreline. Enjoy eagles but make certain your presence and behavior do not have a detrimental effect on the eagles or their future use of the area. Keep your distance from eagle nests and roosts and eagles feeding on the ground. Respect their space.