bald eaglePicture by Ray Reinertson taken on land of his Lake Templene home.

Have Bald Eagles Become Residents of the Lake Templene Area?

Yes, It is true. There have been numerous sightings of bald eagles around Lake Templene over the last year. In fact, there is anecdotal evidence that as many as four bald eagles may have taken up residence somewhere in the lake vicinity. This may mean two mated couples or one couple and two youths are living here. Only time will tell.

Bald eagles have been spotted in St. Joseph County, MI, for quite a few years according to Bald Eagle Viewing Directory at Bald eagles can be found in every state except Hawaii. They are most concentrated in Alaska, but Michigan is one of six other states in which the eagles are most prevalent. Who knew! The other states with a prevalence of North America's bald eagles are Florida, Wisconsin, Washington, Minnesota, and Oregon.

With its striking unique appearance, the bald eagle is relatively easy to recognize except for the young ones that resemble other eagles or large raptors. Male bald eagles generally measure 3 feet from head to tail, weigh 7 to 10 pounds, and have a wingspan of about 6 1/2 feet. Females are larger, as much as 14 pounds and have a wingspan up to 8 feet or more. The distinctive white head and tail feathers appear after the eagle is 4 to 5 years old, the age that mating also begins. Bald eagles are believed to live about 30 years.

It seems that Lake Templene may offer a preferred environment because bald eagles generally need an environment of quiet isolation, tall, mature trees, and clean open water. They mostly establish habitats near seacoasts, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of open water with an abundance of fish, their favored food and staple of their diet. But, they will feed on almost anything they can catch, including ducks, rodents, snakes, and carrion. Bald eagles require old-growth and mature large trees for perching, roosting, and nesting.

Much of Michigan provides plenty of both open water and large trees. If the eagle's territory in Michigan or any northern state has access to open water year-round, the bird does not migrate, but if the body of water freezes during the winter, making it impossible to find food, it migrates to the South or one of the coasts. It is most likely that the Lake Templene sighted bald eagles have migrated due to freezing of the area's waters.

Bald eagles have few natural enemies and are considered to be at the top of the food chain. Bald eagles mate for life and build huge nests in the tops of large trees near rivers, lakes, marshes, or other wetland areas. They often return to the same nest year after year, constantly adding fresh sprigs to the nest before eggs are laid, during incubation, and while nurturing hatchlings. Some nests may reach 10 feet across and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. Although bald eagles may range over great distances, they usually return to nest within 100 miles of where they were raised.

Two to three eggs are laid once a year and the eggs hatch after about 35 days. The young eagles are flying within 3 months and are on their own about a month later. Only about half the young eagles survive their first year due to developmental weakness, disease, lack of food, bad weather or human interference.

The bald eagle was removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife on June 28, 2007. They are still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. These prohibit the taking, transport, sale, barter, trade, import and export, and possession of eagles. It is illegal for anyone to collect eagles, eagle parts (including feathers), nests, or eggs without a permit.

If you would like to know some locations where bald eagles have been sighted in Michigan go to and click on the Bald Eagle Viewing Directory section. You may also log your own sightings at that website or send a message to the LTPOA website and the sightings will be posted there. More information can be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the source of most of the information for this article.

By Dolly Padgurskis

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