The construction site at the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which will connect Maryland and Virginia, has become the unlikely home of a pair of nesting bald eagles. The endangered birds surprised construction workers and local ecologists when they made their nest on Rosilie Island, only 150 feet from the noise and congestion of the jobsite.
“There are hundreds of dump trucks, bulldozers, guys with cell phones and walkie-talkies,” Mike Baker, who oversees environmental issues for the project, told The Washington Post. “It’s unbelievable. Even when people are slamming tailgates, they [the eagles] don’t flinch. They don’t care at all.”
This is the sixth spring this particular pair of eagles has laid eggs near the bridge, but it is the closest they have come to the construction. Eagles, usually skittish, normally prefer to nest away from human activity.
“It’s the most unique situation I’ve ever seen, as far as the magnitude of this project,” Craig Koppie, and endangered-species biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the newspaper. “Their tolerance level for human disturbance is higher than normal for bald eagles.”
Koppie estimates the chicks were hatched in mid-April. Nest watchers knew the eagle pair had laid eggs in March, when the female began spending more time in the nest. Currently, the eaglets are too young to lift up their heads, so the parents catch food and feed them in the nest. In June, the eaglets will learn to balance on the nearby branches and eventually learn to fly, which could prove to be a problem with the construction site and large equipment so close.
“I expect weird things will happen,” Koppie said. “The best we can hope for is there’s a good wind the day they start to try to fly.”