Lahontan eagles build new nest

SILVER SPRINGS - Nevada's only known pair of nesting bald eagles have found a new home after a February windstorm knocked down their nest.

The eagles have adopted an old blue heron nest not far from where they were living before.

"This new nest is actually in a lot better situation than they had with the old nest," said Larry Neel, a Nevada Division of Wildlife biologist. "It's down further in the crown, close to the primary fork of the tree. It's got a nice solid base to it and it has more land around it so if an eaglet was blown out of the nest, the parents would have a chance to retrieve it."

When the nest fell, state officials consulted with their counterparts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nevada State Parks about what to do.

"(The fall) came at a bad time. It was pretty close to egg laying time and we weren't quite sure how the pair was going to react," Neel said. "My first instinct was to let the birds react to this situation, do whatever it was they were going to do and let them handle it themselves."

Neel's confidence in the bird's natural instinct was well rewarded.

The eagles are working on improving the nest for what Neel hopes will be another successful nesting attempt this year.

"She's a very aggressive female with regards to nesting and she seems to have a strong urge and instinct to do that," Neel said.

The same pair of eagles has been nesting at Lahontan State Park since 1997. That year, wind first challenged the birds by blowing a hatching out of the nest, resulting in the death of the eaglet. In 1998 and 1999 single eaglets successfully fledged.

Neel is hoping that the 2000 nesting attempt is successful but he won't call it a disaster if it isn't.

"The nature of these birds and the way they hold their territory and their life expectancy is such that any given failure in the course of their nesting history isn't really a big deal."

A helping human hand will be extended to the determined eagles in the form of a buoy field which the state will set in the waters of Lahontan Reservoir later this month. Boats will be kept out of the area in order to keep disturbances to a minimum.

For biologist Neel, a tough break for the eagles has been turned into an opportunity without human assistance.

"It's a better situation. It's one that they chose for themselves, and that's the best that it could be."


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