Downtown Kirkland’s highest flying residents have taken up housekeeping once again in a big Douglas fir tree on the bluff at , preparing to introduce another generation of bald eagles to their lakeside city.
“We think they might have laid their eggs recently because one is spending a lot of time on the nest and one seems to be bringing it food,” says Jason Filan, Kirkland Parks operations manager. “It’s cool. It’s awesome.”
The eagles have been nesting in the park annually for eight or more years and have become quite an attraction for passersby and residents.
Bald eagles were taken off the endangered species list nationally in 2007 and are commonly seen year-round in the Kirkland area. Scattered around Lake Washington are 15 to 17 active bald eagles nests, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, including possibly two or more in the city limits.
But experts say it is not common for them to be nesting in such an urban situation–literally right in downtown Kirkland.
“We have a lot of water in Western Washington with Puget Sound, Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, and a lot of territory with commanding views, and that’s what eagles like,” said Chris Anderson, an urban wildlife biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Department. “The lake has a good population of perch and other fish and waterfowl for them to eat. They’ve got it made out here.”
Another active eagle nest has been reported at Yarrow Bay, said Anderson, and there has been and might still be another at Kiwanis Park near Juanita Bay.
The state’s bald eagle population was seriously depressed in the mid-20th century, but began rebounding with the elimination of the pesticide DDT in 1972, along with pollution control measures such as the Clean Water Act of 1977. That they have rebounded so strongly is considered a remarkable wildlife recovery story.
“We definitely should celebrate that we have urbanized eagles,” says Anderson. “That is not the case in most parts of the country.”
They are big, powerful and majestic looking birds and seeing them seems to thrill nonresidents especially. To avid birders, being able to so readily observe them nesting is a treat.
“It is very exciting,” says Mary Frances Mathis of Kirkland, a master birder who leads wildlife walks at Juanita Bay for the Eastside Audubon Society chapter. “When I lead the walks, new birders and new visitors get so excited to see the eagles. So this is really special.”
The average incubation period for bald eagle eggs is 35 days, and Mathis says the Kirkland pair definitely should be on eggs by now--by the way, female bald eagles are larger on average and both genders will sit on and incubate the eggs. So barring disaster, eaglets should arrive some time in May.
“I’ve seen them sitting on top of the nest,” says Filan. “You can hear them calling for their parents. They can be noisy.”
No doubt Kirkland will be watching.