Thirty years ago the sight of a bald eagle got people excited. Only three nesting pairs were known in 1982. Today bald eagles are back across the state. The Game Commission recently released the number of active bald eagle nests: 206 nests in 51 of the state's 67 counties.
The number of nests will almost certainly increase as reports trickle in through the summer. In 2011, for example, preliminary surveys reported 203 nests, but the final total was 217.
So today, seeing a bald eagle isn't the big deal it was 30 years ago. Unless it's your first. I get emails and letters every year from readers who have seen their first bald eagle, and their notes are peppered with adjectives such as "awesome, amazing and magnificent."
Even Carl Roe, executive director of the Game Commission, is impressed. In a statement he says, ". . . I can't imagine our outdoors without them. Their presence heightens every trip afield and a chance encounter with a passing bald eagle is almost always the highlight of anyone's day. Eagles are simply that: unforgettable."
With a wingspan of almost 7 feet and weighing 10 pounds or more, bald eagles are huge and powerful, a fitting national symbol.
Though Pennsylvania's eagle nests are scattered around the state, they are most frequently found near big rivers and lakes.
The counties with the most eagle nests this year are Crawford (21), Lancaster (19), York (10) and Erie (9). Even more encouraging is that eagle nests are showing up in urban areas. Allegheny County has one confirmed nest this year and Philadelphia County has three.
Furthermore, the bald eagles' recovery is not limited to Pennsylvania. Last year, New York and Ohio each reported nearly 200 nests. And Maryland stopped counting nests in 2004 when the population reached 393 pairs.
Biologist, author and broadcaster Scott Shalaway can be heard 9-11 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 AM WVLY (Wheeling), and noon-2 p.m. Sundays on 1360 AM WMNY (Pittsburgh). He can be reached at http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com, and 2222 Fish Ridge Rd., Cameron, WV 26033.