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A bald eagle perches in a slash pine tree 60 feet above property at the Dick Pritchett Real Estate office in North Fort Myers.
A bald eagle perches in a slash pine tree 60 feet above property at the Dick Pritchett Real Estate office in North Fort Myers. / Tom Taylor/Special to The News-Press
A webcam captures a bald eagle sitting in its nest in North Fort Myers. / Tom Taylor/Special to The News-Press

American bald eagle

• Appearance: Adults weigh 8 to 10 pounds with a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet. Body and wings are dark brown. Head and tail distinctly white; eyes, bills and feet are vibrant yellow. Large bills, talons and a spike-like barb on feet used to kill prey.
• Feeding behaviors: Diet consists mainly of fish, although eagles will eat mammals and, occasionally, road kill. Eagles are notorious from stealing fish from other eagles and raptors like ospreys.
• There are an estimated 9,789 active breeding pairs in the 48 mainland states, with 1,133 nests occurring in Florida, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Sources: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, baldeagleinfo.com, felid.org.

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Eagle Cam


Live Video app for Facebook by Ustream

A fledgling Southwest Florida family has become an Internet sensation this holiday season, drawing hundreds of thousands of followers from more than 100 countries.

Ozzie and Harriet — a couple believed to have been together for more than 20 years — is a well-known pair of bald eagles who currently have two eggs in a massive North Fort Myers nest. The duo has raised dozens of hatchlings since 1990.

Now their day-to-day lives are broadcast online — streamed live 24 hours a day thanks to a video camera installed by the property owners, the Prichett family. Ozzie and Harriet have business cards, a Facebook page (Southwest Florida Eagle Cam) and a Twitter account (SWFLEagleCam).

This duo is one of nearly 90 documented nesting pairs in Lee County.

“The Truman Show”-like celebs were first unveiled to the cyber world in late October. Since then nearly 1 million people in 112 countries have watched the video, property owner Andrew Prichett said. Hosting 1,000 viewers at a time is not uncommon.

“It’s neat to see them fix the nest and bring in fish to eat,” Prichett said while walking along the paved driveway leading to Dick Prichett Real Estate. “They bring all kinds of weird things. One day it was a palm frond, and then one day it was a bromeliad. It looked like they took someone’s house plant.

“We’d heard about other eagle cameras around the country, and we thought we could share it with the world.”

People park at the church nearby or in the Prichett driveway to watch the eagles and take photos. Ozzie and Harriet have been in the local spotlight since moving to the Prichett property in 2006.

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Biologists recommend staying 700 feet or more away from an active or potentially active nest when observing bald eagles. Jim Beever, a wildlife biologist and environmental planner for the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council in Fort Myers, gives them even more room and suggests that nature lovers stay well away from nests and use binoculars.

“If I’m not doing something scientific with the eagles, I’ll stay 1,500 feet away from the nest,” Beever said. “I don’t want to take any chances.”

The couple’s originally nesting tree was killed on purpose in 2003 when someone used a machete or ax to remove bark from the pine’s trunk. A development was being planned on those lands, south of Bayshore, and it’s almost impossible to get development permits on lands containing active eagle nests.

No one was charged with killing the tree, although it is illegal to disturb an active eagle nest. Ozzie and Harriet returned to North Fort Myers in the following years but didn’t produce hatchlings for several years. That changed when the couple started building their nest on the Prichett property. They’ve since produced seven chicks.

The two eggs are expected to hatch on Saturday and Tuesday. Incubation lasts 35 days and the birds fledge, or leave the nest about 11 weeks later. The eaglets will hatch in the order they were laid, which means one of Ozzie and Harriet’s offspring will be three days older than the other. It’s not uncommon for the older chick to kill the younger one, especially if the older eaglet is a female. Ozzie and Harriet have fledged two eaglets on several occasions and three eaglets at least once.

Lee County has long been an eagle stronghold, Beever said. In recent years loss of habitat, pollution and suspended electric lines and cell towers have become the birds’ main threats.

Beever said Lee County’s historically tall pine trees and pristine fishing grounds have provided ideal nesting and hunting grounds.

“Pine Island is different,” Beever said of the local eagle range. “It was part of the mainland during the ice age, and it became isolated with sea level rise. And that’s why big pine trees are found there. The eagles knew it and took advantage of them.”

Beever said most bald eagles that nest in our area migrate to the Chesapeake Bay area off Virgina and Maryland during the summer months. They return each year in October to areas such as Cedar Point Park near Englewood in Charlotte County. Large groups of eagles gather in a communal flight of feeding and socializing. Potential pairs will lock talons and plummet in a spiraling dance that functions kind of like a school dance for teenagers.

Connect with this reporter: ChadGillisNP on twitter

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