By Camille Lueder, COM 250 Reporter
Edited by Emma Buoni, COM 303 Reporter
MOUNT BERRY, Ga. – The Berry College eagles have been on campus for a decade where they educate students about the environment and promote the school.
The Berry College bald eagles have been on campus since 2012, when a student discovered a nest high in a pine tree near Opportunity Drive. Ten years later, the nest has been home to two adult eagles and their one eaglet. Many facets of Berry’s campus influenced the eagles’ attraction to the area. The Etowah River and Florida Rock Quarry are both sources of fish and provide food for the eagles. Professor Zachary Taylor has worked as an environmental expert on food sources for eagles on Berry’s campus and surrounding areas.
Much of Berry’s 27,000-acre campus has provided protection and water resources for the eagles. Brian Campbell, associate environmental professor on campus, said he has seen juvenile bald eagles hunting in the reservoir. Since the eagles have been on Berry’s campus for ten years, biology and environmental professors believe they are in a safe location and do not plan to move. Berry College has taken many precautions to ensure the safety of the eagles. Federal laws such as the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act have protected bald eagles since 1940 by enforcing strict rules about humans’ proximity to the birds. Fortunately, bald eagles have not been labeled as endangered since 2007. Berry College established a buffer zone around the nest preventing people, cars, and buildings within a certain distance.
Renee Carleton is a biology professor at Berry who has been heavily involved with the eagles on campus. She recalls the challenge the arrival of the eagles presented for Berry.
“The Valhalla football stadium was supposed to be near the buffer zone, but permits required the stadium to be moved and a fence to be put up,” Carleton said.
However, the rules did allow for cameras to be set up to observe and learn from the eagles. The cameras have been informational for the public outside of Berry College.
“The cameras help engage the public,” Campbell said, “and the eagles do not seem to be bothered by it.”
Taylor believes that Berry College has been fortunate with the eagles’ nest location.
“Having the eagles on campus draws a lot of attention to the college and indicates a healthy ecosystem here,” Taylor said.
Carleton is an avid bird researcher and has been the scientific advisor for the eagles since the nest was discovered. She has answered many questions from the public and explained that there is a following of the eagles at Berry and beyond. Carleton incorporated the eagle cameras into the curriculum for her principles of zoology class, and her students have been able to observe the birds’ behaviors and watch them grow. Carleton also received letters from students at Wacona Elementary School in Waycross, Georgia, who watched the eagle livestream. The first graders learned about eagle habitats, diets, and life cycle.
“The charter school developed an entire set of curriculums for teachers to use,” Carleton said.
Members of the Rome community have taken the chance to watch the eagles and learn about nature through them. Since the eagles first came to campus, the public has invested in their success. Eaglet B-15 hatched on January 13, 2022, which drew more attention to the birds.
“B-15 is coming along normally, so we expect it to take its first flight,” Carleton said. “I looked at B-15 this morning and it is flapping its wings and starting to stand up around the nest.”