An American bald eagle has made its home within minutes from historic downtown McMinnville.
“We thought it was a deer, at first,” said Ella Adams of the creature they spotted in a field by their house on Beersheba Highway. “Then we used binoculars to get a closer look at it. It was huge, but it wasn’t a deer.”
Gregg Garrison, biology teacher at Motlow State Community College and avid bird watcher, says bald eagles are rare in Warren County, but not unheard of.
“We had our bird count at the end of December and we did find one in northern Warren County just outside the city,” said Garrison.
The Christmas Bird Count, a census of birds, is performed annually by volunteer birdwatchers and administered by the National Audubon Society.
The bald eagle was chosen as a national emblem of the United States by the Continental Congress of 1782. It was selected for its beauty, great strength, long life, and because it’s native to North America.
The bird’s diet is mainly fish, but it can hunt reptiles and small mammals. A full-grown bald eagle has a wingspan up to seven feet, can fly up to 30 mph, and dive at 100 mph.
Sharing their property with an aerial predator isn’t easy. Adams says four of the family’s cats have been injured and later disappeared.
“We had one cat with its head ripped open,” said Adams. “One had gashes along its side. We didn’t know what was going on. I guess now we do.”
Eagles mate for life and an established pair will use the same nest for many years. Over time some nests become enormous. They can reach nine feet in diameter and weigh as much as two tons.
Importantly, the birds were given legal protection by the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940. The act prohibits anyone from disturbing the birds, nests or eggs, and levels criminal penalties against those who do.
Due to the bird being the nation’s emblem and protected under federal law, the family has only one recourse. They have affectionately named the bird “Sammie” and plan to keep a closer eye on their cats.
Bald eagle facts
Lifespan: About 15 to 20 years
Weight: 10 to 14 lbs.
Lifting power: About 4 lbs.