Eagles make their homes in Metro Parks

Eagles perch in a sycamore tree along the Olentangy River at Highbanks Metro Park. (photo by Tom Kitchen)
Eagles perch in a sycamore tree along the Olentangy River at Highbanks Metro Park. (Tom Kitchen)

HIGHBANKS METRO PARK (Naturalist Craig Biegler)
A pair of eagles started nesting along the Olentangy River at Highbanks in 2010. Since then, they have raised about 15 eaglets. It takes four to five years for an eagle to reach maturity, so the Highbanks pair may be grandparents by now.

In late February, the female will lay up to three eggs, which will hatch at the beginning of April. Eaglets grow quickly, reaching near-full size at about six weeks. At 10 to 13 weeks they take their first flights. By the end of summer, the parents force their babies to leave the nest for good.

The eagles spend most of winter near their nest in the Edward F Hutchins State Nature Preserve. You can see the nest by walking to the overlook deck at the end of the 2.3-mile Overlook Trail, or from the parking lot in the River Bluff Area on the west side of the Olentangy River. You can see them now, flying through the river corridor, even though the river is partially frozen. If it were to freeze over completely they’ll have to travel farther to find food, since they primarily eat fish. Once the river thaws a little, they will return to protect their nest and prepare for their next clutch.

An eagle glides over Pickerington Ponds Metro Park. (John Bonnett)

Eagles have been active at Pickerington Ponds since 2012, seen mostly from the Glacier Knoll, Wood Duck and Wright Road parking lots.

Since spring 2017 eagles have been seen almost daily at the park. Late in the year they were taking sticks and branches to the heron rookery at Ellis Pond. It raised the exciting possibility that they were building a nest, and this was finally verified by staff and visitors. They had taken over a heron nest.

A strong wind blew the nest out of the tree, but within a week the eagles were hard at work preparing a new nest. They are nesting there now. The eagles are a young couple, four or five-years-old. This is probably the first year they have tried to nest, so 2018 is going to be an exciting one for Pickerington Ponds visitors.

The best place to view the eagles is from the Wright Road parking lot by Ellis Pond.

An eagle scours the park at Scioto Audubon. (Kim Graham)

SCIOTO AUDUBON METRO PARK (Park Manager Dan Kaderly)
Eagles have been seen in and around Scioto Audubon since winter 2009. The following year a nest was spotted along the Scioto Greenway Trail that runs through Berliner Park toward S.R. 104 on the east side of the Scioto River. Eagles were seen sitting around the nest. In the following years eaglets were seen by birders and park staff.

The nest is visible after leaves fall and through leaf out the following spring. Eagles are often seen flying up and down the Scioto River near Scioto Audubon and Berliner parks. They also perch in trees along the Scioto Greenway Trail on the west side of the river.

An eagle surveys the area from its nest at Three Creeks Metro Park. (Aaron Snyder)

THREE CREEKS METRO PARK (Naturalist Greg Wittmann)
Eagles have been present at Three Creeks in the same nesting area on Big Walnut Creek, off Bixby Road, since about 2010. They nested in an old red-tailed hawk nest in a large cottonwood tree. Although that nest blew down in 2011, they built a new nest within a couple of weeks, in another cottonwood just a few yards away.

Two fledglings were born here in February 2017 and we expect more babies this year. Ten to 13 weeks after hatching the fledglings start to leave the nest and remain in the area until they are about 20 weeks old.

Starting March 4, Three Creeks naturalists will be leading hikes to a viewing area near the Madison Christian Church, 3565 Bixby Road, Groveport. This area is closed to the public, so these programmed hikes of about one mile are your best chance to see the eagles at their nest. We will have a spotting scope available. Meet at the church parking lot.

FOR ADULTS: EAGLE WATCH, Sat March 4, 2pm (age 18 and older)
EAGLE WATCH WEEKEND, Sat March 24, 10am and 1pm (all ages)
EAGLE WATCH WEEKEND, Sun March 25, 2pm (all ages)
OLDER HOMESCHOOLERS: ALL ABOUT EAGLES, Wed March 28, 10am (age 7 and older)
SPRING BREAK SPECIAL: EAGLE WATCH, Tue April 3, 10am (all ages)

Walnut Woods Park Manager Mindy McConnell sees eagles at the park at least a few times a month, mostly flying over the Buckeye Area or perching in tall dead trees. Scioto Grove Park Manager Geoff Hamilton has seen eagles in the north end of the park, or flying along the Scioto River corridor.