Monroe County Plant attracts dozens of Eagles - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Monroe County Plant attracts dozens of Eagles

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A lot people pack up and head to warmer climates during the winter months but the cold weather is actually attracting some American icons to the area. Every winter there's a big boost in the eagle population in Monroe County. They flock to the open water near DTE Energy's  Monroe Power Plant. 13abc's Lissa Guyton had a rare opportunity to see some of the eagles.

You have to look closely but there are dozens of eagles perched in a line of trees near the Monroe Power Plant. DTE Wildlife Biologist Matt Shackelford says the reason why is simple, "The water near the plant is about 42 degrees so that keeps it open. The open water attracts fish from Lake Erie and there are lots of fish. The eagles obviously like to eat those fish and they can also have solitude on the 800 acres of wildlife habitat around the plant."

It wasn't all that long ago when you'd be lucky to see one or two eagles on this property but in the last 12 years there's been a significant population increase during the winter months.  Today there were about 40 eagles near the plant. During a recent count close to 200 of the raptors were on the property, "A lot of them have the classic white head and tail. You'll also see a darker version, which is a younger eagle. It takes about four years for them to get a white head and tail."

Many of the eagles stay close together as they keep a watchful eye on the water, something you probably wouldn't see them do the rest of the year, "During the breeding season they like to have their space with their mate to raise the young. During the winter when they have a good food source they can tolerate one another."

The vast majority of these eagles are only here for the winter. Once the ice melts most of them will fly back to places like Northern Michigan and Canada,"In spring and summer during the breeding season about 20 eagles move through this area and we have a couple nesting pairs on the site. The big numbers only congregate here during the winter months."

When you think of power companies like DTE, wildlife habitats may not come to mind but DTE maintains 800 acres here as well as dozens of other wildlife habitat sites. And it's not just eagles that live on this property,"We have many species of ducks that lay over here for the winter and we have swans. It's not just birds, we also have animals like deer, fox and coyote."

The open water and the abundant food supply are the big attractions for the eagles but some of them that winter in Monroe return to the property because they were born there. Eagles have a wing span of up to 8 feet. The adults weigh about 14 pounds and the average life span in the wild is 6-8 years. They were removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007.

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