Pair of bald eagles rebuilding their Twin Lakes aerie

The bald eagles are back.

As winter temperatures move in, so have the eagles.

The eagles that built an aerie at Twin Lakes last year have begun rebuilding it.

Eagles also have been spotted elsewhere up and down the Arkansas River in Wichita.

In recent years, winters in downtown Wichita have meant a growing number of eagles feeding and sometimes nesting.

"We haven't gotten real cold yet, but as soon as we do, we could get even more eagles," said Paul Griffin, a Wichita birder. "We are getting more eagles every year. Any place where there are big trees along the river, you'll see them."

Each winter, the birds migrate from the northern Great Lakes to Kansas lakes and rivers, where they search for open water, fish and waterfowl. When Kansas lakes freeze, they look for food along rivers, including the Arkansas River in downtown Wichita.

The eagles, which have a wingspan between 6 and 8 feet, usually stay in Wichita's downtown area until the end of February.

They can be spotted anywhere from dawn to dusk along the river, from north of 21st Street near the Big Ditch to south of Herman Hill and Watson parks.

Some are even beginning to stay year round, while nesting and raising their young, as was the case this past year with nesting pairs near Derby, Harper and Quivira.

Some people hope the Twin Lakes pair will do the same.

Griffin spotted the Twin Lakes pair a few weeks ago and has watched each day as the two carry sticks to their aerie in an old cottonwood tree. The tree sits on a small island across from the Twin Lakes Shopping Center's west parking lot, just off Amidon.

It is located in the middle of a deep lake with a high steel fence around it, several hundred yards from the parking lot.

It is too early for the eagles to begin nesting in earnest — that won't come for another month or so, Griffin said.

Each day, the eagles have been spotted primping and prepping their aerie and perhaps doing a little relationship building.

Griffin said he has seen the male eagle carrying sticks to the nest, some as long as 8 feet and two inches in diameter.

"It's like he is taking a roof beam in, he has to fit it just right, Griffin said. "It may take him 15 minutes to get it just so. Sometimes he will whack her with it in the process. And, after he leaves, she picks the stick up and puts it in another place."

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