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Hays eagle fends off marauding raptor

| Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, 1:50 p.m.

Hours after defending their nest from a midnight raccoon raid, the Pittsburgh bald eagles had another unwelcome visitor Thursday afternoon.

A juvenile bald eagle flew around the nest about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, according to Bill Powers, president and CEO of PixController. The Murrysville-based company teamed with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to provide the live-streaming camera at the nest.

Video shows one of the Hays bald eagles sitting on the eggs and reacting to something outside the camera's view.

As the agitated eagle fluffs its feathers and screeches, a large brownish bird flies past and hovers briefly in view before flying off.

The entire encounter lasts less than a minute. The eagle parent then shifts position, briefly exposing the three eggs being incubated before settling down.

About 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night, a sleeping bald eagle was awakened when a small, possibly juvenile raccoon climbed into the nest. The bird spread its wings, exposed its talons and quickly chased off the midnight marauder.

The eggs do not appear to have been harmed.

“While two uninvited guests within 12 hours seems busy, it is not unexpected,” said Jim Bonner, executive director of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. “Most birds are defending their nest throughout the entire incubation period from a variety of predators — we just don't have cameras on all of them to see it!”

Patricia Barber, an endangered birds biologist with the state Game Commission, said hawks, crows, ravens, large gulls, great horned owls, raccoons and fishers, a type of weasel, are among the predators large enough to pose a threat to eagle nests.

Barber said it was rare for predators to successfully impede nesting eagles last year in Pennsylvania.

“Predation is really only a concern when the adults are off the nest,” Barber said. “You've probably noticed on the camera, but usually the bird on the nest only leaves when the mate is there to relieve it.”

Bonner said they believe Thursday's visiting raptor was a 2- to 3-year-old bald eagle. He said they don't believe it was the chick that fledged from the Hays nest last summer.

Birdwatchers have noticed a juvenile eagle in the vicinity of the Hays nest for about the past two weeks, according to Aubudon.

“If this bird continues to harass the nest, the pair will most likely drive it out of the area,” Bonner said.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com. Staff writer Mary Ann Thomas contributed.

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