Saanich home to five eagle nests

Wildlife NewsSaanich home to five eagle nests
Saanich News also appeared in Oakbay News
June 13, 2008

Sam VanSchie
News staff

Three pairs of bald eagles are raising their young in Oak Bay nests this spring, while neighbouring Saanich has five active nests.

This is a high number for urban settings, especially because the birds protect their large hunting territories from other eagle families.

"It would suggest there is a good food supply in the area," said Gwen Greenwood the volunteer coordinator at Wildlife Trees Stewardship Program. "There are more (eagles) nesting in the area than in previous years, for sure."

Eagles are opportunistic carnivores, they eat fish and smaller birds, such as sea gulls, as well as rodents, including rabbits and rats.

"They adapt pretty well to an urban setting, explained Greenwood, who has been researching eagles in southern B.C. for eight years on behalf of the organization that helps protect eagle habitat.

Greenwood wouldn't say where in the area the eagle nests are, not wanting people to disturb them. Any tree an eagles lives in is protected by the municipality.

But there is a limited number of trees strong enough for their massive nests, which can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds -- about the same as a Smart car loaded with passengers.

The birds also need to have tall trees near their nests to perch on while hunting.

When there isn't enough territory for the birds, they will fight over areas.

This might also happen if eagles are forced to move after being pestered too much by humans. Wild ARC, a rehabilitation centre for wild animals run by the SPCA, aids injured eagles. The centre also rescues eagles that have flown into buildings or towers, as well young birds that fall from trees.

Greenwood said it's especially important not to disturb the birds while their babies are in the nest. Young eagles typically leave at the end of July and only 10 per cent will survive to adulthood.

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