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East County Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2010 7 years ago

Honoring Our Eagle

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

MANATEE COUNTY — The patriarch of a bald eagle family that has charmed East County residents for years from its nest off Pope Road has died.

The male eagle was found electrocuted March 1 by Dale Nauman, a volunteer with the Eagle Watch program of the Audubon of Florida. Nauman said he visited the eagle’s nest adjacent to Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Community after being contacted by a wildlife photographer, who said the male was missing for two days.

“I went out that Monday evening and noticed, too, there was one adult there,” Nauman said. “I thought I’d check the power poles. It was there lying at the pole (closest to the nest). It was just a wound on the side of his head.”

Nauman said the pole was a favorite perching spot for the eagles, and he suspects the male eagle dropped its food and was electrocuted while diving to catch it.

Eagle watchers said the female struggled to fend off predators the week following her partner’s death, but she has successfully protected her two eaglets and kept them fed on her own.

Another male eagle began showing up near the nest about three days later. The female seems receptive, they said.

“They’ve been doing what we think are some courtship flights, but he hasn’t really been in the nest yet,” Nauman said. “We are really hoping the male comes through. For her to keep doing what she’s doing and keep that up for six more weeks (when the eaglets can fly) and keep herself fed would be difficult.”

Greenbrook resident and photographer Ursula Kuny, who has stopped by the nest regularly to check on the female and eaglets, agreed, noting the new male has become a frequent visitor.

“He’s around here every day,” she said. “This morning, they were sitting on the same tree. It takes a while. We hope something happens so she can keep the predators away.”

University Park Country Club resident and photographer Troy Lim held a special affinity for the bird because it was the first bald eagle he had ever seen. He called him Bill in honor of a close friend who had passed away, he said.

“I had heard about bald eagles, but I’d never really seen one,” said Lim, who was raised in Malaysia but has lived in the United States for the last 10 years. “When I watched the birds fly, I thought about freedom.”

One of Lim’s photographs of the male eagle won an online photography contest just days before its death.

Photographer Beverly Skelton also remembers distinctly one day when the male eagle flew overhead to a perch and looked straight at her.

“It was a breathtaking moment,” she said.

The pair of eagles has been a favorite sight for East County residents over the years because they are so close to Pope Road. However, they seemed to be shy, building up their nest so high one can barely see the eaglets from the roadway, Nauman said.

Bob Reddy, spokesperson for the Diocese of Venice, said the nest was on Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Community property before the diocese began construction on the church in 2002.

Originally, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission required the building be constructed 1,500 feet away from the nest, which is why the church is located where it is on its 15-acre parcel. However, current regulations require only a 100-foot buffer and limiting construction to non-nesting season, he said.

The death of the male eagle will not impact the church’s expansion plans. Construction crews recently cleared land behind the nesting area in preparation for the expansion, although the timeline is not definite.
Nauman said electrocution is one of the three most common causes of deaths for eagles in the wild. He is trying to determine which power company owns the structure at which the male eagle died so he can have it reevaluated for safety. The pole, he said, sits within 100 feet of the nest.

The Audubon of Florida monitors about 60 eagles nest in Manatee and Sarasota counties. For more information about the Audubon or its Eagle Watch program, visit

For more of Troy Lim's photography, visit

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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