Eagle Lessons

ST. MARYS — Local third-grade students have been learning about bald eagles and butterflies, and on Wednesday, they had a visitor who told them about both topics.

Jill Bowers, who is an eagle nest monitor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, visited third-grade students at St. Marys Intermediate School.

“I monitor the eagle nests, and we have three of them along Grand Lake St. Marys now,” Bowers said. “Two of the nests are covered over by leaves, so I can’t really see how many babies they have in those nests, but I know they have at least one because I see the eagle go in with food to feed their baby. I know that one nest has two babies because I have seen them.”

As an eagle nest monitor, Bowers reports about the local eagle nests and sends it to a biologist, who uses it in his study for the eagles in Ohio.

In the past, there were only four nests — or eight eagles — in the state of Ohio, Bowers noted.

“There was a poison that farmers and homeowners were using and it almost destroyed the bald eagle,” she said of 14979, noting officials would take an egg from eagle nests in Alaska and would bring it home to eagle nests in Ohio. “From 1979 until today, they put those eggs into the new nests and that mom and dad eagle raised those babies as their own. Today, we have 36 new nests in the state of Ohio and over 200 nests that are active.”

Bowers shared an egg that would be the size of a bald eagle’s egg, as well as bird bands, a similar skull, similar wing and a similar talon.

“I’m not allowed to have anything real from a bald eagle because they are a national symbol and the most protected bird in the world,” she said.

Bowers shared multiple facts about bald eagles — a bald eagle lays one to three eggs, usually around January or February, and both parent birds will take turns sitting on the eggs, including through when they hatch. The eaglets will stay in the nest until they are around three months old.

The eagles in the area, like other wild birds, are banded, Bowers said.

She noted the eagles nesting in the Mercer County nests are from Ohio, Tennessee and New York — the bands are color-coded, and each color represents a state. If the students see a bird, such as a goose, with a band, Bowers encouraged them to report it because the birds are tracked.

Wild eagles, Bowers said, can live to be 20 years old, while eagles in captivity can live to be 50 years old.

“Man is the bald eagle’s predator,” she said. “Because we build houses and destroy their habitat, we cut down trees so they have no place to build a nest. We are the worst enemy of the bald eagle.”

Bowers added approximately 40 percent of eaglets never make it to their first birthday.

In addition to her eagle pieces, Bowers also brought a fish bowl with her to the school.

“From January to July, I watch the bald eagles,” Bowers said. “But after then, I raise Monarch butterflies.”

The fish bowl, she noted, contained two butterfly eggs and a baby caterpillar. Bowers discussed the life cycle of the butterfly, as well as their migration habits.

“I tag them,” Bowers said, noting she will let her butterflies go in September. “I will take them four generations to get back to me.”

On their way out, the third-grade students could look at the insects inside her fish bowl.