Eagles Return To Nests
Inside the Outdoors, March 9
, 2012

I think most the people who asked me the questions really didn’t believe that there were eagles in our midst or even in our surroundings, may it be Keystone State Park, Loyalhanna Creek or near Ligonier somewhere.

So I called Powdermill Nature Reserve, for someone initially filled me in on the fact that eagles are beginning to make their appearance in Ligonier Valley. That was a few years ago.

I was very blessed to be able to talk with Andrew Vitz, avian ecologist. He informed me that there are a number of eagles increasing in our area especially along the Loyalhanna Creek. A matter of fact, they are doing very well in our area, he said. “There are eagles found throughout the Ligonier Valley.”

He continued by stating, “Very soon, in March and April, they will be returning to their nests,” Vitz said, “to rebuild them and lay their eggs.” That’s exciting, especially if they are taking on residence in the Laurel Highlands. Just think how that may increase our economy. People will be coming to our area hoping to see bald eagles – something that one does not see in the city.

While we were on the subject of large birds, recently while walking down Walnut Street in Latrobe, I happened to glance over between two buildings, and there on a cyclone fence was a hawk of some kind. I froze in my footsteps and watched its behaviors. At first, I tried to find the red tail on its feathers, for I had heard so much about the red-tailed hawk and inhabited our woods behind Legion Keener Park.

I must have stood there a full five minutes. I then began to inch forward toward it to see how close I could go before it flew off. Three inches was all I could shuffle my feet. But I got enough of a description to allow me to describe it visually and compare my findings to something seen on the Internet.

Sure enough, there it was, a Cooper’s Hawk of all things. Never heard of such a bird. But then, I also learned that we had a number of other hawks in our locale including the Broadwinged, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed, Rough-legged and the Sharp-Shinned species.

Vitz said the Northern Goshawk will make its appearance in the winter time but none of the other months of the year.

According to the website, www.wbu.com, “The Cooper’s Hawk wad named by Charles Bonaparte in 1828 after William Cooper, who collected the specimens that were used to describe the species.”

Here is some information that got my attention. “This raptor is the scourage of the backyard bird feed enthusiast, especially in winter months, whey they flash through backyards to snatch any unwary songbird from a feeding station.”

Describing it, “The Cooper’s Hawk is from 14 to 21 inches long, with a wingspan of from 27 to 36 inches. The hooked bill is well adapted to tearing the flesh of its favorite prey such as chipmunks, squirrels and other small mammals, and various bird species including starlings, flickers, robins and Mourning Doves.”

In conclusion, it stated, “Cooper’s Hawk populations are recovering after suffering serious declines in the 1940’s and 1950’s as a result of pesticide impact on reproductive success. They can be a problem around poultry farms where they may help themselves to unwary chickens, but by preying on wild birds and rodents, they help keep populations of wild birds and rodents in check.”

- Paul J. Volkmann
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