Meridian Star

March 2, 2014

On Eagle’s Wings

Bald eagle frequents family’s pond

By Terri Ferguson Smith /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     A family in the Hickory community is enjoying the visits of a bald eagle that is helping itself to fish from their 29 acre pond.

    Tammy Cleveland, along with her husband Billy and their two sons, Colt, 21, and Cain 16, aren't stingy with their fish. The eagle is welcome to it, she said.

    "We've actually watched him eat fish," Cleveland said."

    She once saw the eagle catch a fish; drop it and then catch it again.

    Her family has lived on the property for about three years, but it was in September, 2013 that she first saw two eagles.

    "They stayed maybe a month. Then we didn't see them for a long time," Cleveland said. "A couple of months went by and then we saw just one. It would be sporadic visits."

    They tried unsuccessfully to photograph the eagle, but finally he let them get close enough to get his picture.

    Her husband has walked throughout the area, looking for a nest, but hasn't found one.

Asked if they ever try to attract eagles with food, Cleveland said no.

    "They know how to take care of themselves better than we can," she said.

    Bald eagle populations are recovering after being  on the endangered species list. They were removed from that list in 2007. Although it was taken that list, bald eagles are still a protected species.

    Nick Winstead, ornithologist for the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, said they try to keep track of the number of bald eagles in the state and they know of about 100 here.

    "They like big lakes typically," Winstead said. "Most are found near bigger lakes in the state. They are also found at some residential lakes."

    Told about the Clevelands' eagle sighting, Winstead said seeing two eagles initially; then seeing just one suggests that they may be nesting nearby.

    Winstead said eagles like big, tall, individual trees close to water. If someone sees an eagle's nest, the museum would like to know about it. They can contact the museum and they will get someone to come out and look at it. To contact the museum, call 601-576-6000.

    Not only are the eagles themselves protected, there are laws protecting their nests as well, he said.

    According to the National Wildlife Federation website, bald eagles build nests on on the tops of trees. The pair, which mate for life, use sticks and twigs to construct a platform nest. Some pairs return to the same nest the following year.

    Bald eagles normally lay two or three eggs, the NWF website states. The eggs are incubated for about 35 days. Depending on the location, the eggs are laid in the winter or spring.

    The parents will care for their chicks by bringing food to the nest for about 10 weeks.

    "The chicks take their time leaving the nest. After approximately 12 weeks, they work their way out on the branches near the nest," according to the website. "They'll learn to fly but stay in the nearby area. The parents continue to provide some food until the young are independent."

    "Young eagles are on their own until they are about five years old, according to the NWF website. "During their juvenile years, they will go through several color changes and molts. At about 5 years of age, they'll look for a mate."