A few weeks back, I spent a frigid, snowy, windy day watching the comings and goings of a pair of eagles in eastern Ohio. The nest is in an easily viewable locale, and attracts scores of onlookers. Fortunately, because of the Arctic weather during my visit, few others stopped by. It can become quite a circus along this road, I am told, but the gawking onlookers don't bother the birds a whit.
I had only planned on staying here for a few hours, but that stretched into 6-7 hours by the end of which I had nearly lost feeling in my extremities. Well worth it, though, to spend time watching the birds add sticks to the nest, interact with each other, and the world around them.
Big eagle nests can be their own downfall. As size and weight increase, the nest becomes more and more of a liability to the anchoring tree. Eventually windstorms can topple the nest, shear off branches to which the nest is attached, or even bring down the entire tree.
Photo credit: Francis Herrick
Here's the gold standard for giant Bald Eagle aeries: the so-called "Great Nest", which was located in Brownhelm Township, Lorain County, Ohio. This nest was about 12 feet from top to bottom, nearly nine feet across at the summit, and eventually attained a weight of around two tons. By the time the tree collapsed during a great storm on March 25, 1925, the nest had been in use for some five decades. It was anchored in a sturdy shellbark hickory (Carya laciniosa), and that probably explains much of the nest's longevity. Professor Francis Herrick of Western Reserve University spent years studying these eagles, even erecting a lofty observation platform in a nearby elm from which he could better observe and photograph the birds.
It'll be interesting to see how large the aerie featured in this blog eventually gets. Only time will tell, but the somewhat protected nature of the site, health and sturdiness of the tree, and the arrangement of the support limbs suggest that the nest will grow much larger than its current size.