A small portion of the population of bald eagles, perhaps 5 percent, are considered to have habitated to our human environment with all its sounds and activities. Donald and Lillian Stokes in their book A Guide To Bird Behavior Volume III write “Unlike the Osprey, which tolerates human presence, the bald eagle demands more isolation from human activity”. Dr. Paul A. Johnsgard in his book Hawks, Eagles & Falcons of North America states “freedom from human disturbance is usually an important but highly variable factor”. These days the word “variable” is key.
The portion of the bald eagle population that has become “urbanized” is expanding. The bald eagle nestlings that are growing up in nests in peoples backyards, public parks, golf courses and other human occupied locations peer out of their nests viewing all our human activities and the sounds we make. When they fledge from their nests they are acclimated to these sounds, sights, and noises and do not shy away from our human locations. Take for example the bald eagle named Camellia who was fitted with a satellite transmitter at his nest at Norfolk Botanical Garden and fledged May 27, 2010. Camellia has spent the vast majority of his time since then in human occupied areas like residential neighborhoods and golf courses – where Camellia is now in Virginia Beach, VA (http://eagletrak.blogs.wm.edu).
On Feburary 27, 2014, I was driving toward the Honey Bee Golf Course in Virginia Beach to check on another Norfolk Botanical Garden raised bald eagle named HK, because of the purple band on his left leg. HK has built a nest on the golf course. The nest tree is less than 100 feet from a private house and 20 feet from a public road. Before I got to the golf course I saw yet another sign that bald eagles have habituated to our human environment – a bald eagle sitting atop a highway light over South Independence Blvd at the entrance to a Target store. I did a u-turn, pulled into a parking space and took the attached photographs as the bald eagle sat there for another 15 minutes with cars, trucks, motorcycles and school busses passing directly below.
Photographs copyright Reese F Lukei Jr