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Harmar bald eagles get crack at parenting

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 4:17 p.m.
Brian Shema
One of the Harmar bald eagles leaves the nest along Route 28 after being relieved of egg-sitting duty by its partner. Although experts can't see into the nest, the behavior of the eagles — one remaining at the nest at all times — is believed to mean the pair have their first egg.

It appears the stork has paid a visit to the Harmar eagles.

The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that the birds are likely sitting on eggs.

Experts thought that the birds were too young to lay eggs last year after spending time at a red-tailed hawk nest on a steep bluff overlooking Route 28.

The Harmar birds join the Hays eagles in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County's oldest nesting pair, in Crescent Township, all likely sitting on eggs in the county.

That's the most in more than 150 years, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

“It is further evidence that the bald eagle population is growing there,” said Patricia Barber, endangered bird biologist with the Game Commission.

More eagles are expected to nest in the Pittsburgh area and in the coming years, Barber said.

“There are currently reports of other eagle pairs in the Pittsburgh area, but we need more details and more reports to confirm additional nests,” she said.

Brian Shema, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, observed one of the Harmar eagles sitting deep inside the nest for much of Tuesday morning.

Then Shema documented the telltale “changing of the guard” behavior — one bird leaving the nest while the other took over to tend to the eggs. One of the birds brought a hunk of grass, which the birds use for a soft lining in the bowl of the nest.

Other reports during the weekend had the birds in the Harmar nest but also flying around together in places like the Highland Park Bridge, according to Shema.

Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or mthomas@tribweb.com.

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