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Golden Eagles Nesting in Bend 

Best to let them alone

This is one of those "damned if you, damned if you don't" moments. I'd rather no one knew of what I'm about to share with you, but I know, in my heart-of-hearts, if I don't tell you about this you're going to hear and see it on TV or someone in The Bulletin will put it in a blazing headline and every photographer and his/her brother will be heading out to shoot photos and cause trouble—just like they did with the little barred owl that made the mistake of visiting Bend. Like the owl, what I'm about to share has already been posted on Central Oregon Birders Online.

So, here it is: There is a pair of golden eagles nesting within the city limits of Bend. They are in an old red-tailed hawk nest, which the red-tails are not happy about, in a big ponderosa pine on private land in southeast Bend. To my knowledge, there may not be another golden eagle nesting within the city limits of any city in Oregon, so please stay away from it! Too many people watching a bird or other form of wildlife will (often) just "love it to death."  

Golden eagles are loners. They do not (normally) enjoy being around people or other eagles, whether they be bald eagles or their own kind. After nesting season is over, mom and dad usually split up for a while, sometimes taking a kid or two with one or the other, but even that is subject to change. 

 In the 50-plus years I've been banding golden eagles, recoveries from the banding lab indicate young eagles leave not only Central Oregon when fledging, but sometimes head for West Texas and New Mexico where they spend their first winter, while the adults wander all over the West, probably staying away from man.

The pair at Brosterhous is different; they seem to be comfortable around people. In fact, they may be the two eagles that appeared on the River's Edge Golf Course last summer. The golf course birds look and act very similar to the new pair nesting in southeast Bend. 

Golf courses, just because of all the open ground and green grass—like-it-or-not—become habitat to two rodents species that eagles find deee-licious: Belding's ground squirrels (sage rats) and yellow-bellied marmots (rock chucks). If the maintenance folks don't use poison on the pestiferous greens and fairway-trimmers, the rodents can become a hearty meal for baby and adult eagles, hawks and owls. (Shooting the rodent with lead-based ammunition is just as bad as poisoning; the raptors often die from ingesting the lead.)

The two eagles that moved onto the River's Edge Golf Course last summer were feeding on rock chucks and sage rats in grand profusion. In doing so, they caused a mess in a home at the edge of the golf course. The eagles decided to perch in a tree alongside the home and proceeded to tear said rodents apart, leaving dead animal parts all over the place, and expelling copious amounts of whitewash (mutes) on the family car and home. Despite the mess, the property owners were very protective of the eagles.   

If someone doesn't want you on their land, that's it; don't go there. My wife, Sue, and I respect that every time we find an eagle nesting on private land. Even though it may be in the wilds of Lake County, if it's private land, it's sacred, and we ask permission to look at the nest and to place it on the statewide golden eagle survey map we're helping the Oregon Eagle Foundation assemble. The property owners surrounding the eagles have indicated they don't want visitors disturbing these birds.

In addition to the neighbors who are watching over the eagle in southeast Bend, so does the United States Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Deschutes County Sheriff, city of Bend, East Cascades Audubon Society, Oregon Eagle Foundation and the neighbors know of its presence—and now you guys. 

If someone asks you how to find it, just say you don't know (even if you do) and let it go at that. Please allow that couple to raise their baby (or babies) without hassle. In spite of their native instincts, those eagles have chosen to use a site surrounded by people. If you want to see them, take up golfing—maybe one will swoop by with a rock chuck—or head out to Fort Rock and watch the desert golden eagles soaring in the beautiful blue Oregon sky, or perching on the irrigation pivots—just be sure to bring your binoculars and camera, and leave the new wild residents of Bend alone.


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