Eagles Find Homes Along Lake

ST. MARYS — Bald eagles are thriving along Grand Lake St. Marys — all under the watch of a St. Marys woman who has been monitoring the birds for years.

Jill Bowers has been monitoring the bald eagle population in Auglaize and Mercer counties for the state for 17 years. Bowers has been with the bald eagles since the first birds arrived in the area.

“They came to the wildlife area by the goose farm by 703 and 127,” Bowers said. “Now we have three nests on Grand Lake St. Marys, including one in Auglaize County.”

The local landscape is attractive to bald eagles. Grand Lake St. Marys and the St. Marys River serve as prime hunting grounds for the birds. Bowers noted the nest located in Auglaize County is along the St. Marys River near the quarry.

“They need water,” Bowers said. “Fish are their main source of food. They will eat small game like ducks, rabbits  — we saw one take a snake once.”

An immature eagle looks like a vulture, Bowers noted. It isn’t until the bird is a few years old that it begins to look like the iconic bird that is the nation’s symbol.

“Their head is dark and the tail is dark,” Bowers said. “The mature eagle at five has a white head, a yellow beak and a white tail.”

In addition to monitoring the bald eagles, Bowers is a regular inside local classrooms. She gives talks about the birds to help educate students about the importance of the bald eagles.

“I tell the kids that I am not allowed to have anything real from an eagle,” Bowers said as she pointed out some of her replica eggs, talons and skulls. “When I show them the skull, I tell them it’s not real.”

Bowers encouraged residents to observe the bald eagles if they see one, but to do so at a distance as to not disturb the nest or the birds.

“By law, you are not to be closer than a quarter mile to an eagle’s nest,” Bowers said. “But the eagles have come to us, they have nested less than a quarter mile from homes. It is still important to stay away, especially during the incubation period because if that egg gets too cold, it will freeze ... If you are closer than a quarter of a mile you really won’t be able to see as well as you can if you are further away.”

While there are three nests in the region, Bowers said she has seen more bald eagles in the area. Some, she noted, stop by the area while migrating.

“Our lake is beautiful and it stands to reason that this is an important area for many birds, not only bald eagles,” Bowers said. “Maybe two weeks ago, there were 17 bald eagles over by the goose farm. So they are coming through. Our adults have stayed here. I may not be able to see them every day, but they are here.”