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Bald eagle visits area lake, numbers grow



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January 02, 2013 - Brandon Twp.- Jerry Smith has lived on the shores of Bald Eagle Lake for more than 30 years

"I was out on my dock in the on Thursday, (Nov. 29) and were watching some ducks feeding in front of my home," said Smith. "All of a sudden this bird the size of a Boeing 747 flew low right over the house. The ducks could not get under my neighbors' dock fast enough. They kept peeking out and looking up."

Smith realized the ducks had something to worry about.

"I could see the white tail and the bright white head on the bird soaring over head," he said. "It was a bald eagle looking to make some lunch out of the local ducks. I'm really not a bird person, but that was unreal. The next day the eagle came back and perched in a popple tree about 40 feet away. The ducks had left the lake by then."

Smith's encounter with the bald eagle locally is not all that uncommon anymore since the bald eagle population in Michigan increased to a level in 2009 which removed the birds from the state endangered species list.

"A lot of people have been reporting bald eagle sightings in Oakland County," said Jonathan Schechter, a township resident with a master of science degree in forest resources from the University of Washington, and a naturalist for more than 25 years.

"There are a lot of red-tailed hawks, too, the DDT era is over. Bald eagles are not in danger anymore," he added. "They don't need a large habitat area, they've shown adaptation, our environment is cleaner. In recent years, lake levels have been lower and eagles fish in shallow water so lakes like Bald Eagle Lake are prime spots for hunting. If it was not for the noisy people on Bald Eagle Lake in the summer, we'd have plenty of eagles in the area. At one point bald eagles were habitat specialists—only one type of habitat was suitable, but that's not the case anymore. Today, bald eagles are over southeast Michigan. They are in urban areas, they eat roadkill, they are opportunists."

The bald eagle was previously classified as endangered until 1995 and was officially removed from the federal government's threatened species list in 2007.

According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, there are now more than 600 nesting eagle pairs documented in Michigan.

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