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Meet your new neighbors: Family of American bald eagles nests in Angeles National Forest




Male American Bald Eagle, San Gabriel Dam
Male American Bald Eagle, San Gabriel Dam
Courtesy Southern California News Group.


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The American bald eagle was on the endangered species list for a while--but over the past decade it's been making a comeback.

And now, a pair of bald eagles and their eaglets have settled into their new home in the Angeles National Forest. 

Take Two's A Martinez spoke with Steve Scauzillo, who covers the environment for the Southern California News Group. He's been keeping tabs on the birds for the past year. 

Steve Scauzillo and his fellow amateur birders were pretty psyched to spot the pair

American Bald Eagle near the San Gabriel Dam
American Bald Eagle near the San Gabriel Dam
Courtesy of Southern California News Group

It's very rare for Los Angeles County. However, bald eagles are doing a comeback so they are in Orange, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties. 

Some amateur birders discovered them, which is really how birding works these days. It's a lot of crowd sourcing... And they called me. I checked it out and I sent pictures around to experts and they confirmed it.

The eaglets don't have their white heads until they're four years-old, so they can be mistaken for golden eagles. So, that was the big question: Are they bald eagles or golden eagles? I had to really work on confirming that. 

I thought it was a real chance because some bald eagles have flown around. There's been some buzzing about – no pun intended – so I thought it was a real possibility. But I wasn't sure. 

The Bald Eagles have expanded their nest and their babies are doing great! 

Their nest is in a lone tree but it's pretty big. It's maybe about three feet-long. And now, I think it's almost doubled. They added a wing because they have two chicks and last year they only had one. 

The eagles are off the road in between Highway 39 and the San Gabriel Dam. And that's a pretty big drop off. If you know that windy road, you just can't walk over there. I'd say you're about maybe 100 yards from the birds. 

You can see them with the naked eye. You can see them clearly but it helps to have binoculars or a scope. But two weeks ago, the female bird was just there – you could see her clearly. She's just watching the nest.

In fact, the eaglets look very healthy. They've been eating a lot. The mother feeds them rabbit or squirrel or fish. So, they're very large. It looks like their wingspan was at least two feet. So they've grown tremendously. And some say, they're ready to fly the nest soon. They stay about 12 weeks so these have been around for about eight, so you've got to figure another four to six weeks, so that puts us into May or June. But some of them don't want to leave the nest just like teenagers... So it's hard to say. There's a time limit when they do say, you've got to go. So they kind of nudge them out of the nest. 

Just like human kids... eventually the eaglets will have to leave the nest... after a few attempts of course 

First of all, this is the most majestic bird in America. There's no doubt about that, and not just because it's the national bird. It has the largest wingspan of any raptor, how majestically it flies, the way it hunts– it's amazing. Second of all, amateur birders have told me their flying is really funny. They'll fall out and kind of flap and not make it, and almost fall down, and try again. So, they do have to – kind of like the Wright Brothers trying out their plane – they have to test out the wings several times. Maybe for a few days or weeks. 

Seeing these birds settle in LA indicates the American bald eagle is doing well after nearing extinction 

It says a lot. It says they're doing very well– remarkably well. And since DDT was banned I believe in '72, they have recovered along with some other birds. The fact that they're seen here where there are 19 million people around, says that they're doing really well. It shows very positive things about their recovery.

For instance, San Bernardino County – they do keep counts near Big Bear and there have been six or eight in one year, up to 12 or 14 in another, depending on how many eyes are on them. So, that number is healthy and there could be more.

You can go see the bald eagles for yourself... Just be sure to respect the wildlife and their habitat

Oh course, we don't want any hardship to come to any wildlife... And the Forest Service has done a good job– they've put a little fence around and said, keep out of this little brush area. I think it's more for your safety so you don't fall down or get hit by a car. I think you can do it as long as you do it carefully. I think the most important thing is don't stop on the road or get hit by a car. 

Between 4 and 6 pm, you might see more activity where the daddy eagle comes back into the nest or perhaps the mommy will join into the nest. There could be more activity in the evening, that's what some people say. 

*Quotes edited for clarity*

Bonus fun fact: American eagles don't actually screech, contrary to popular thought. 

For example, the sound clip at the end of The Colbert Report opening sequence is actually a red-tailed hawk!

https://vimeo.com/15577999

Instead of the intimidating screeching sound, bald eagles communicate with sounds more like chirping:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlq2kcYQcLc

To listen to the interview with Steve Scauzillo, click on the blue Media Player above. 

Audio foot note: There technically is another bald eagle nest in LA County located on Santa Catalina Island.