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Bald Eagle callls Kincaid Lake State Park home

    When the majestic bald eagle became the symbol of America in the late 18th century, it is estimated to have soared our nation’s skies at numbers exceeding 100,000.  But by the middle of the 20th century, it was on the brink of extinction.  
    In 1963, only 487 mating pairs of the great raptor remained.  But efforts for the birds’ recovery have been successful, and by 1995 it was removed from the endangered species list.  Their numbers have continued to rise and that long road to recovery has led some of these magnificent creatures right to Kincaid Lake State Park.
    Bald eagle numbers have suffered due to many causes—deforestation, loss of habitat, hunting (they were once considered a menace to livestock and therefore pests)--but no threat devastated the eagle population quite like the post-war “miracle” pesticide DDT.  
    It wasn’t just sprayed on crops, entire cities were fumigated with the chemical to rid them of pesky mosquitoes.  It was effective.  It also leeched into waterways, poisoning plants, which in turn contaminated fish, which poisoned the eagle that consumed them.  DDT had the strange effect of weakening the shells of eggs laid by bald eagles, which caused the birds’ offspring to be crushed during the incubation process.  Bald eagle numbers plummeted.  
    The EPA banned DDT in 1972, but that was just the first step.  Numbers were so low in the lower 48 states that eagles were brought to Kentucky from Alaska as part of reintroduction efforts in the 1980s.  Today, Kentucky’s eagle population is thriving.  The number of bald eagle nests in the state increased by 25 from 2017 to 2018, with a total of 189 known nests in 2018.  Pendleton County is one of 76 counties in the state with known bald eagle nests.
    Bald eagles typically nest near water—lakes, rivers, coasts—where they have an abundant supply of fish, their primary sustenance, and other food.  They also seek out areas with plenty of places to nest or perch, mostly tall, old growth trees, but cliffs and rocky outcroppings will get the job done, too.  These habitat requirements make Kincaid Lake a prime spot for an eagle to call home.    
    Park manager Jeff Auchter says the parks’ resident eagle has been soaring over the lake for about five years now.  It is a solitary eagle, not part of a mating pair, and no nest has been spotted within the park boundaries.  
    If you’d like to try to spot a bald eagle, at Kincaid Lake or anywhere else, winter is typically the best time of year.  Absence of foliage makes it easier to spot the birds as they perch above bodies of water, where they can easily spot fish and other prey.  
    That is also the best time of year to spot their nests, which are easy to identify based on size alone.  An eagle’s nest is on average 4 to 5 feet wide and 2 to 4 feet deep, but they have been found as large as 10 feet wide and weighing over 1000 pounds.  The Department of Fish and Wildlife tracks bald eagle nests in the state as a means of monitoring the birds’ reproduction rates.  If you think you have found a bald eagle nest, contact them at 1-800-858-1549 to report it.