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Updated: 07/11/2014 09:22:55AM

A sketch of our national symbol

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A Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leaucocephalus) in flight.

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Welcome to the roost! What better bird to sketch today than the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leaucocephalus), inasmuch as we will be celebrating Independence Day this Friday.

This symbol of the United States of America, grasping an olive branch (peace) in its right talon and a bundle of arrows (war) in its left talon, reminds friend and foe that our country is ready, willing and able to pursue either course when necessary.

It is interesting to recall that Benjamin Franklin lobbied hard for the Wild Turkey to be our national bird instead of the Bald Eagle. One cannot but admire and agree that the Wild Turkey is very devoted to raising its young; and the beauty of the male bird’s tail feathers as it struts to impress a female turkey.

We are lucky to have the magnificent American Bald Eagle as a permanent resident here in Highlands County and, as a result, there are many watchful eyes able to admire the building or rebuilding of nests; and then looking forward to seeing the eaglets mature and leave the nests.

There is an active eagle-nest-watching program, initiated by the Highlands County Audubon Society. If you would like to become a member of that group, call Margaret Gleave at 863-465-2889.

Not too long ago, an area resident phoned with a report of two eagles fighting high up in the air. It was explained to this nice person that mating pairs of eagles perform dramatic aerial displays. The most impressive display involves the two birds flying to a great height, locking talons and then tumbling perilously toward the earth. The birds break off at the last second, just before crashing into the ground.

Bald Eagles do not mature until their fourth or fifth year, only then developing their characteristic white head and tail plumage. Bald Eagles generally mate for life. They renew their pair bonds each year while adding new sticks and branches to their massive nests, the largest of any North American bird. Nests are usually built in a tree bordering a lake or large river, and occasionally far from water. The nest, over time, will become a huge structure, up to 15 feet across, and is often reused for many years.

The pair will incubate one to three white eggs for 34-36 days. Both parents will feed the young. Eagles will eat waterbirds, small mammals and fish captured at water’s surface; they will feed on carrion and sometimes will pirate fish from ospreys.

Charlie Marr, who lives near Lake Bonnet, reported seeing an eagle harass a caracara while in flight, until the caracara disgorged whatever it had just eaten! And, as Marrs reported, the carrion was captured before it hit the water.

There is no doubt that viewing all of our Creator’s natural gifts is something which embraces our lives, making today a gift worth receiving. We always ask that you contact us with your unusual bird/wildlife sightings. We can be reached at 863-465-6618 or email

Sylvia Blackmore reported seeing several Egyptian Geese at the Highlands Ridge Golf Course in Avon Park. A few phone calls were made and, yes, she was correct as these birds are seen in that general area, according to our contact at the Avon Park Bombing Range.

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Hank Kowalski lives in Lake Placid and is a graduate of the Dr. Reed Bowman Bird Study Course given at South Florida State College. He is a past commissioner of the Natural Resource Advisory Commission. He is also past president of the Highlands County Audubon Society and a past president of the Heartland Environmental Council.