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Allegheny

North Park could be the latest home for bald eagles

Mary Ann Thomas
| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, 6:27 p.m.
Two bald eagles have been frequenting a nest in Allegheny County’s North Park.
Courtesy of Gina Gilmore
Two bald eagles have been frequenting a nest in Allegheny County’s North Park.

A photographer caught two bald eagles frequenting what appears to be a nest in Allegheny County’s North Park on Tuesday.

One of the birds brought in some straw while its likely mate sat in the nest Tuesday, according to Gina Gilmore of Fox Chapel, an amateur photographer.

The formerly endangered raptors have been spotted in the park for the past several years; however, a pair has been seen regularly this summer and fall, according to Meg Scanlon, interpretive naturalist for Allegheny County Parks.

“We can assume they are a pair; whether they are a breeding pair, I cannot predict,” said Scanlon, who added she has received a number of phone calls recently on increased sightings of a pair of eagles in the park.

Whether or not the eagles nest in the park won’t be known until February or March, when they would be expected to lay eggs.

Allegheny County Parks has been monitoring the birds and, if they follow through with nesting, “we will take the appropriate measures to protect them,” said Kevin Evanto, parks spokesman.

Bald eagles can pair up and “nest shop” before they are fully mature and ready to breed, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Birds are usually mature enough to breed at five years of age.

Gilmore and others have been looking for a potential eagle nest in North Park for at least a year.

A pair of birds was spotted frequenting the same part of the park in March 2017, which was documented by commercial photographer Mary Pegher of Franklin Park.

After learning of a recent sighting, Gilmore visited the park early Tuesday morning. She came up empty after four hours of waiting to see the birds.

Gilmore was ready to leave about noon when one of the eagles flew overhead carrying straw.

A little while later, she saw the second eagle.

Earlier that morning, Gilmore had spotted a large nest in a heavily wooded area out of view from the park’s lake areas. She found the birds there, with one of them in a nest “much larger than the new nest for the Harmar eagles.”

It’s unknown if the North Park birds built the nest or took it over from another species. The Harmar bald eagles took over not one but potentially two red-tailed hawk nests on a bluff overlooking Route 28.

North Park’s lakes, which were dredged several years ago, have a bounty of fish for both anglers and eagles, Scanlon said.

“There’s plenty for everyone,” she said. “In addition to trout stocking, we have bluegills and tons of carp. In fact, if the eagles take the carp, they will be doing the lakes’ ecosystems a favor.”

If the North Park eagles nest this year, it will add to at least four other known nests in Allegheny County: Pittsburgh Hays neighborhood, Harmar, Crescent Township and along the Youghiogheny River, east of McKeesport.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary Ann at 724-226-4691, mthomas@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

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