COLUMBUS (TDB) -- When observers fanned out to count Ohio's bald eagle population during the recent mid-winter survey, they found three aliens homesteading in the woods -- a group of endangered golden eagles. It was unexpected. Once fairly common, these majestic upland birds of prey have pretty much abandoned the Great Lakes region and are seldom seen at this time of year.
Golden eagles, who may be recolonizing Ohio, can have 78-inch wingspans and weigh up to 14 pounds. They are named for their golden-brown plumage, with their head and nape feathers a slightly lighter hue that appears to glimmer like the precious metal in sunlight. An Ohio Department of Natural Resources announcement says there were 480 bald eagles counted this month, and adds that goldens are likely to become more common.
"The number could increase as the golden eagle population grows in the eastern Arctic, and as a successful reintroduction effort in Georgia and Tennessee expands," ODNR said. As for bald eagles -- the U.S. national symbol -- the annual survey showed the second highest number ever recorded. They were in 53 of the state's 88 counties, and had found homes from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. There were 10 in Cuyahoga County and 1 in Hamilton and the most, 69, were in Sandusky County on the lake.
Ohio's bald eagle census has state biologists confident the number will continue to increase.
As for golden eagles, they are the national symbol of Mexico. New York's Department of Environmental Conservation offers a fact sheet that explains you can spot one because it has feathers on its legs all the way down to the toes. A bald eagle has a white head, obviously, and its legs are bare.
Golden eagle numbers declined outside the Arctic regions as humans settled North America. DDT did not affect them as much as bald eagles because they eat small animals, and rarely dine on fish.