The Eagle Has Landed
Writer / Kathi Moore
Photographer / Dan Ripley
To Broad Ripple residents who spend a lot of time along the White River, perhaps it’s no surprise to hear there is a nest of eagles there. The Friends of the White River and Central Indiana Land Trust have committed themselves to stewardship of the waterway, cleaning out invasive honeysuckle and aquatic plants and planting native species that prevent soil erosion. This has seemingly helped to provide suitable nesting and feeding areas for eagles.
“Water quality, fish populations and retention of large trees along the White River have an impact on this,” says John Castrale, DNR biologist.
Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources states that there are currently 200-250 eagle nests located in 70 of Indiana’s 92 counties, with the most near Lake Monroe, Sugar Creek, and Mississinewa. Over the years, just eight or fewer of those nests have been recorded in Marion County.
“Bald eagles continue to increase in Indiana, being more adaptable than we originally thought,” commented Castrale. “Minimizing disturbances near the nests is still important so the eagles can nest successfully. The return of bald eagles to much of their North American range is one of conservation’s greatest success stories.”
Avid ‘river rat’ and White River Yacht Club member Dan Ripley remarked, “I’ve seen this nest for the past 4-5 years, but it was rebuilt in another tree and now has at least one fledgling in it, so I know it’s an active nest.” Thanks to the efforts of conservationist volunteers like Ripley, the area is not as overgrown as it was, which helps to attract the magnificent birds.
Cliff Chapman, Executive Director of the Central Indiana Land Trust, noted that they are in the final year of a three-year restoration project in that area. “I think it’s just great that we are at that point now where we can attract bald eagles to the city. You can often see the eagles from Oliver’s Woods and Town Run Trail Park near the Fashion Mall.”
Monitoring of the eagle population is best done in the winter and the DNR counts on property managers and the public to alert them of newly discovered nests. In 2008 Indiana removed eagles from the endangered species list after reaching a goal of 50 nesting pairs. This was a remarkable achievement, considering that no bald eagles were known to have nested in the state from about 1900-1988. Restoration efforts began in 1985-1989 when 73 eaglets from Wisconsin and Alaska were raised and released at Lake Monroe, contributing greatly to the statewide recovery.
DNR’s Castrale reminds us that bald eagles have legal protection surpassing almost all other birds in the United States. Not only is it illegal to harm or disturb (even if actions are unintentional) an individual eagle without a permit, nests and areas around the nest tree are also protected. Be aware!