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Why a failed nest at Pinery Narrows in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a good sign for eagle population

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Posted at 12:09 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 06:19:30-04

BRECKSVILLE, Ohio — For the first time since 2016, a pair of bald eagles that have called Pinery Narrows area in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) home have abandoned the nest for this year without producing any eaglets.

Ryan Trimbath, a CVNP biologist, offered some possible explanations for this year’s failed nest. One possibility is that another young eagle, referred to as a sub-adult, wanted to try his hand in taking over the area nesting spot.

“There was a subadult that came around and there were some interactions where the nesting eagle was chasing it off. It seemed like there was some level of harassment going on,” he said of a photographer who captured the interaction.

Human disturbance could also have played a role as there was a major project on the Station Road Bridge which caused more people to walk on the railroad tracks that are typically closed during nesting season.

Late snows in April could have affected nesting, Trimbath said. He also noted that Peregrine falcons recently moved into the area near Route 82 bridge and could have contributed to the harassment of the nest eagles.

“They [birds of prey] don't like being around each other. So there's often, you know, some fighting between them. But those birds have been watched significantly and no one ever saw an interaction between the Peregrine and the eagles."

Although no eaglets fledged from the nest this year, Trimbath said this isn’t all bad news and actually an encouraging sign that the habitat is good enough to support competition.

With the nest in close proximity to wetlands and a rich food source from the Cuyahoga River, the Pinery Narrows area is a hotspot for eagles and birds in general.

“It's [fighting] something you expect to see because there is more competition for limited resources. There are only so many good places to build a nest and have fish. So those sort of cutback competitions is largely a product of the increase in the population size," he said.

RELATED: A perfect love story: The same pair of eagles return to the same area in the CVNP for 12th year in a row

Since 2007, bald eagles have nested in CVNP and successfully fledged a total of 17 eagles. The nest at Pinery Narrows has failed three other times in the past. Once in 2009, during a late-winter storm that caused the nest to fail. In 2011, an entire tree fell in a storm. The pair of eagles attempted to build another nest in a different tree but were ultimately unsuccessful. In 2015, the nest failed for an unknown reason.

Despite the failed nest this year and in years past, Trimbath said the eagle population in Ohio couldn't be better and he's confident a pair of eagles will return to Pinery Narrows next nesting season.

"They've just been recovering tremendously," he said, citing over 700 nests spotted in Ohio in 2020.

Other nests across Northeast Ohio have had successful nesting seasons. At Mentor Marsh, three eaglets were born and at Redwood Elementary in Avon Lake, three eaglets were born.

RELATED: Unaffected by the global pandemic, bald eagles continue to thrive in Ohio

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