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Bald Eagle gracing the skies over Lake Orion



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February 22, 2012 - Let freedom ring! Recently the nation's fine-feathered friend, and symbol of freedom has been seen winging it over the waters of Lake Orion. We were alerted to this avian oddity via The Review's Facebook page by local Lisa Satko-Zsenyuk.

Satko-Zsenyuk posted the photos you see here on Facebook. Her husband, Jim Zsenyuk snapped the shots. Said Jim, "These photos were taken Saturday morning, February 18. The pictures were shot from my house looking north to the trees, then flying south over Lake Orion with the Bellevue Island bridge in the background."

Lisa added, "This is our first sighting. We've heard other people say they've seen him but in my husband's 10 years here he has never seen one. Now I can't help looking for him every time I look at the lake!"

We did a quick internet search on the Michigan Department of Natural Resource's website and found out these fun facts about Haliaeetus leucocephalus.

According to the our online research (www.michigan.gov/dnr), "As adults, eagles have a chocolate brown body and wings, with their trademark white heads and tail feathers. They also boast a long bright yellow beak with a hooked tip and two inch gray talons protruding from their featherless toes.

"At up to 16 pounds (average 12), they have wing spans of six and one half to eight feet. Adult females are much larger than males, averaging 34 to 43 inches in length, while males are only 30 to 35 inches in length. Immature eagles are almost completely brown with irregular patches of white under their wings and tail."

Bald eagles usually nest near large bodies of water or rivers to be near to their favorite meal -- fish. Get this, "Although they are quite capable of catching their own, sometimes even wading in shallow water to stalk fish like herons, they have often been seen stealing fish from other birds such as osprey. When fish are not available, such as in winter, eagles will also feed on waterfowl, small mammals (up to rabbit-size) and carrion (even road-kill)."

In captivity Bald eagles have lived up to 50 years, though in the wild 20 is more the life-span.

We are currently in the beginning bald-eagle breeding season, which lasts from mid-February to mid-March. During this time the birds establish their territory, build nest and perform mating displays, "cartwheel" display begins high in the air with the two birds darting and diving at each other, until they lock talons and drop in a spinning free fall, until the last possible moment when they separate.

They usually nest in the tallest tree in the area. And, from March to early April, one to four white eggs are laid. The eggs are about twice the size of chicken eggs, the website said.

In Michigan the population of bald eagles dropped dramatically, mostly from consumption of fish laced with PCBs. It is estimated that in the late 1960s, only 38 percent of the state's breeding population were raising chicks that survived.

With legislation, renewed efforts to nurse the eagles' numbers up. According to the DNR, "The 1999 survey found 343 nests that produced 321 young. The productivity was calculated as 96% (young per nests with known outcomes)."

If any local residents see cool things like the Lake Orion bald eagle, please give us a shoutout. Contact us on Facebook, send an e-mail to LakeOrionReview@gmail.com or call us, 248-693-8331.

-- Don Rush

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