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Mary Lou Johnson, who photographed the eagles, with John Ginaven.
Longboat Key Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2013 4 years ago

Ginaven brings his eagle eyes to Historical Society lecture

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Was it the view? Or the low association fees?

Sarasota Audubon Society’s John Ginaven doesn’t know why Longboat Key’s bald eagles chose the condominium they began nesting in years ago.

Whatever their reasons, their choice of a nesting environment was highly unusual, because bald eagles seldom nest in areas populated by humans.

The eagles have become celebrities in their own right on the Key, so it’s fitting they have celeb-style drama. Ginaven detailed the saga in a presentation, “The Bald Eagles of Longboat Key: A Soap Opera,” he gave Thursday, Feb. 21, to the Longboat Key Historical Society.

The male and female bald eagle seemed to be happy in their nest five years ago. But, in 2008, a younger 4-year-old male Ginaven calls “the Interloper” arrived to challenge the older 12-year-old male.

Typically, the older male would win if his territory were challenged, but the younger male won this fight.
Later, Ginaven saw a blurb in a newspaper about a pair of bald eagles fighting on the golf course. He’s pretty sure if witnesses were correct in the descriptions they gave police, it was the female fighting her former mate.

She remains paired with the younger male.

“I think they call them ‘cougars,’” Ginaven said of females like her.

The nest the bald eagles have chosen is old, with damaged needles.

Ginaven joked he tried to convince the eagles to pick a different tree, because he worried it would collapse, which it did in 2010.

This year’s nest is in the same tree and is also fragile, as a result. It holds two young. If it were to fall before they learned to fly, the young birds would have to go straight to Save Our Seabirds.

Bald eagles typically fly north around April.

Researchers sometimes track them by banding their talons.

The young are like snowbirds in that they sometimes head as far north as Canada.

When it comes to older birds, there aren’t many volunteers lined up to attempt to band an adult eagle’s talon, so tracking them is difficult.

Ginaven suspects Longboat Key’s adult eagles stay further south, perhaps soaring to Georgia or the Carolinas before returning around September.

Like the celebrities they are, the eagles desire privacy — as do their neighbors who live in the surrounding condominiums.

That’s why neither Ginaven, nor the Longboat Observer, will publicly reveal their exact location on the Key.

Nester numbers
36 — The number of days after which eagle eggs hatch.
6 to 8 feet — The typical wingspan of a bald eagle.
5 — The number of years it takes for a bald eagle to develop adult plumage.
1-4 — The number of eggs laid in a bald eagle nest; Florida nests typically have two.

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