Kevin T. Velez, Campus Carrier asst. arts & living editor
Atop the tall pine trees that dot Berry’s campus rest some of the college’s most notable residents. The bald eagles on Berry’s campus gained recognition when their nest was discovered in 2012.
The eagle couple was afforded their local fame not only because of their convenient location near the parking lot to the Cage Center, but also because of their protected rights as an at risk species under a multitude of federal laws and regulations.
When the nest was discovered, the hope of building Valhalla Stadium closer to the Cage Center was smothered and the construction project adapted to the new eagle regulations it had to follow.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service notes that although bald eagles are no longer listed as an endangered species, they are afforded protection under federal laws like the Eagle Act and the Migratory Bird Act (which prohibits the removal or moving of an eagle’s nest and eggs). These federal statutes enforce fees ranging upwards of tens of thousands of dollars and jail sentences with a maximum of two years.
The Eagle Team is in charge of monitoring the eagles during their tenure at Berry. The group includes students and faculty advisors.
The group observes the eagles and notes their behaviors through infrared cameras positioned near the nest with a 24-hour live feed.
Since the discovery, the Eagle Team has witnessed the hatching of 14 eggs in the nest and the successful fledging of 10 birds.
Recently, the past three reproductive seasons have experienced failure to produce new offspring. This past season, the female eagle was able to hatch two eggs but both birds unfortunately did not survive.
Reneé Carleton, associate professor of chemistry, has been the scientific advisor to the team since the nest’s discovery.
Carleton explained the past three reproductive seasons have not weathered well for the eagle couple or those who enjoy observing them.
“It was tough to lose all of the babies that have unfortunately perished these past few years,” Carleton said.
Carleton mentioned the recent passing may motivate the current eagles to find another nest.
Despite the outcomes of the past season, Carleton and the rest of the team remain optimistic about the future of the nest.
With the potential abandonment of the current inhabitants, Carleton said the nest is ideal for new eagles and other animals to claim because of its structure and location. Carleton notes the high demand for the nest.
The introduction of the nest’s newest female resident brings hope to team that the current residents might stay and increase the chance of producing a pair of birds that the team and outside viewers can appreciate watching over.
Carleton explained students have gained substantial educational benefits through the nest cameras.
“It has been just a remarkable opportunity for Berry to not just share the eagles with our students but share them with everyone all over the world,” Carleton said.
Carleton mentioned the nest has a regular viewership of classrooms, elderly couples, and offices around the world.
Sam Askew, a freshman English major, remembers watching the nest cameras in class while he was in high school.
“My teacher would turn the projector on and play the feed,” Askew said. “We would watch the eagles daily and see them interact with each other and sometimes with the eggs.”
Sam remembers thinking back then how interesting and peaceful it was to view nature in an undisturbed setting.
Berry students have the unique opportunity to enjoy the eagle nest in person. Behind the Cage Center is a viewing station equipped with chairs and a telescope aimed at the nest.
The online Berry College eagle page includes the camera feed and a comment section to accompany viewers. The page includes lesson plans created by Berry students and faculty for classrooms regarding the eagles and more specific information about the nest.
To enjoy the live feed and learn more about the Berry eagles, go to the Berry eagles on Berry’s main website.