Experts: Little love locally, but bald eagles in Kansas are thriving

07/01/2014 11:21 AM

07/01/2014 11:26 AM

After yet another nest failure on Harbor Isle this year, local naturalists are beginning to wonder if the town’s beloved bald eagle pair is biologically fit to mate.

“You kind of wonder,” said Bob Gress, naturalist and former director of Wichita’s Great Plains Nature Center. “Most of the other birds are successful.”

For the fifth year in a row, the eagles – who in past years nested at Twin Lakes Shopping Center – failed to produce offspring. But that didn’t happen for lack of trying on their part. People who observed the eagles said they saw one of them in an “incubating position” for a while, but an egg never hatched. After a storm on June 12, the aerie was destroyed when it was blown out of the tree.

“We don’t really know what’s going on up there without a camera,” Gress said. “It’s another nest failure.”

In general, the southern Kansas area has seen a swell in bald eagle population in the past 10 years, Gress said.

Charlie Cope, district wildlife biologist with the state, said the state is expecting about 24 or 25 eaglets from south-central Kansas this year.

“Eagles are coming back,” Cope said. “We’ve got close to 84 or 90 active nests in the state.”

Bald eagles were officially removed from the endangered species list in 2007. According to the Endangered Species Act, government officials were to monitor the eagle population for at least five years after delisting.

Gress said he believes in years to come, people will stop actively monitoring bald eagle nests because “there will be too many.” This year, there was a bald eagle nest “every six or seven miles along the Arkansas River,” he said.

“The nice thing about eagles is everybody loves them, and not just because they’re big,” Gress said. “Canada geese are big too and not everybody loves them. There’s a mystique about them. You don’t have to be a bird lover to appreciate the bald eagle.”

Cope said the Harbor Isle pair was first spotted at Twin Lakes in 2009. At the Harbor Isle nest this year, Cope said people reported seeing one of the bald eagles with a slight limp.

Though the supposed love between the Harbor Isle eagles did not come to fruition this year, Gress said the success of the rest of the state’s bald eagles eclipses their misfortune.

“For every failure there’s a success story,” he said.

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