Carroll County Times

Eagles buzz in Hampstead

According to Hampstead Town Manager Brad Plante, the town has recently been buzzed by the national symbol.

"We live off of Lower Beckleysville Road in the county and my wife was out walking the dog out in the corn field. The dog alerted, and she was looking at what was a recent kill. My wife didn't know what it was, but the dog looked up, then my wife looked up and there were two huge bald eagles sitting on this tree. The white head, brown feathers, just massive birds," Plante said.


Plante said that sighting two bald eagles near a kill was certainly interesting, but after several more eagle sightings, he began to wonder if the birds might be nesting nearby.

"Several days later, a friend of mine at church who lives on Wynside Lane off of Lower Beckleysville asked me if I had seen an eagle flying around the neighborhood, and I said 'yeah, my wife has seen two of them.' My wife and I also saw an eagle flying near North Carroll High School," Plante said.


Bald eagle sightings in central Maryland, something that was uncommon not too long ago, may now become commonplace thanks to the species' recovery, according to Glenn Therres, director of wildlife heritage services at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the state eagle biologist.

"The bald eagle was formerly an endangered species at both the federal and state level and had been since 1967. In 2007 it was taken off the threatened species list. It is a recovered endangered species nationwide, even in Maryland. In the 1970s, the population in Maryland was about 44 nesting pairs. In 2004 when we stopped monitoring nesting eagles, we were at 400 nesting pairs," Therres said.

Despite the bald eagle's successful comeback from the brink of extinction, Therres said that the birds are still a federally protected species, with hunting or possession of their feathers remaining illegal.

"They are [still] protected for two reasons. First, as migratory birds; all migratory birds are protected in the U.S. by the Migratory Birds Treaty Act. The U.S. has treaties with Mexico, Canada and Russia concerning how they will deal with birds that migrate between those three countries. That treaty is from 1918. The Bald Eagle also has its own protection act as the national bird, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act," Therres said.

According to Craig Koppie, the eagle and raptor biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office, after the bald eagle was taken off the endangered species list The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act was strengthened to include even disturbing eagles.

Koppie said that the combination of a resurgent population with strong protections for the bald eagle has created some difficult situations.

"Near Aberdeen, there are 50 eagles nesting on Army base property, producing nearly 100 young. That's really a management nightmare for a landowner, figuring out when you could be disturbing a bird or not. That's about 2,000 acres of land just set aside for eagles," Koppie said.

According to Koppie, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to monitor bald eagles and will review development projects that might disturb the birds.


"Since delisting the species, we have embarked on a pretty specific plan where we have created various disturbance permits for eagles. By putting together what we have as a national bald eagle guideline protection packet," Koppie said.

More information about disturbance permits can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website at

, under "migratory bird permits."

According to Therres, while this is the time of year that eagles are nesting and laying eggs, it is not necessarily certain that the pair sighted in Hampstead are nesting in the area.

"Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay area are major wintering areas for migratory birds. We probably have two times as many bald eagles in Maryland right now than we will when they are raising young in March, April and May. Eagles generally nest near big bodies of open water. In Carroll County, nesting will likely be near Liberty or Pretty Boy reservoirs. Hampstead is pretty removed. It's not impossible that they are nesting, but it's not guaranteed just because they are seen there in winter," Therres said.

Therres said that the key thing for identifying a nesting pair of eagles would be the discovery of a nest and that a bald eagle nest is a difficult thing to miss.


"A nest is a gigantic pile of sticks up in a larger fork in a tree, usually nearer the top. The sticks would be two to three inches in diameter. The nest would be four to five feet in diameter and about three feet deep. It's huge," Therres said.

Koppie said that the Fish and Wildlife Service would certainly be interested in knowing about a confirmed nesting pair of bald eagles in the area.

"It is important because one of the biggest problems that we have right now is that [Maryland] no longer does yearly over-flights. 2004 was the last time they did, and so we are still assuming that various habitats are still inhabited by the same birds that have nested there for 25 years. Without data on where nesting eagles are now, when a permit request comes in, we are in the dark as to whether or not that site contains eagles," Koppie said.

According to Koppie, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be happy to get information about the location of a nesting pair of eagles in terms of an estimated distance from an intersection of two roads. He cautioned against approaching to closely to a nest however, because the eagles might fly off and endanger any eggs.

"Six hundred sixty feet is as close as you want to be. Eagles are still sensitive to movement and on a day [below freezing], eggs left alone could be chilled within moments," Koppie said.

Plante said that he has spread the word for people to keep their eyes peeled for a potential nest in the Hampstead area, and to avoid disturbing any birds found there.


"We did put out the word to our town officials, the mayor, council members, just to keep a sharp eye out. Apparently most people don't get too excited about it, but I do ... I believe in conservation. You can certainly draw a parallel with the buffalo out west, they have come back very strong and so have the eagles," Plante said.