One of the nation’s most recognizable animals has made a home on Lake Lanier for the first time.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the bald eagle has successfully nested on Lake Lanier in the northern part of Hall County.
Jim Ozier, the DNR nongame conservation program manager in Forsyth County, said eagles are commonly reported on Lanier, but there have been no documented nests.
“It’s not unheard of to have a nest in the northern part of the state, but a relatively small percent are north of Atlanta,” said Ozier.
The nest, about three river miles south of the Ga. 52 bridge, has been there for about three or four years, but Ozier has not seen any signs of eagles making it home.
“They hadn’t successfully nest(ed) as far as I could tell,” he said.
But last month, Ozier went back and found a female bald eagle on the nest with either eggs or eaglets.
Although nests are not necessarily common in North Georgia, there have been documented nestings on Lake Blue Ridge, Lake Allatoona, Carters Lake and Lake Nottley.
“I wouldn’t call it a shock,” said Ozier. “They’re attracted to large bodies of water.”
About 33 percent of the nests in Georgia are in coastal counties and a large portion of documented nests are below Atlanta.
According to the DNR, aerial surveys in January and March indicate 158 occupied nesting territories. There were 142 last year.
“The numbers have been increasing steadily since the late ’70s, or so,” said Ozier. “(Before then,) we didn’t know of any statewide, but I’m sure there were some in isolated areas during that period.”
The nest on Lake Lanier is on the property of the Don Carter State Park, the developing 1,000-acre state park.
The nest, however, is in an area where the construction of the park will not affect the preservation of the nest.
“It’s away from the main developed area so it’s not going to be impacted by the primary development of the campgrounds and things like that,” Ozier said.
He said the only plan for the park that may affect the nest is the construction of a nature trail.
That, he said, could be changed easily and the nest could be a focal point of the hike.
“I think it’s going to be a good place (for the nest),” Ozier said.
Eagles also have been reported to nest on the campus of Berry College in Rome.