WILL COUNTY, Ill. — Bird enthusiasts, volunteers and Will County staff are eagerly awaiting the arrival of baby bald eaglets after two nests recently became active.

The nests could likely produce hatchings by the end of March, Will County Forest Preserve volunteer and bald eagle enthusiast Joel Craig told WGN News.

While the locations of the nests are protected for safety purposes — a team of volunteers, nature photographers and the county’s ecologist are keeping eyes on them to share insights and data.

“The first thing we looks for obvious nesting activity,” Craig said. “Once the female puts herself on the nest and doesn’t leave — pretty good assumption she is sitting on an egg.”

Craig said the male will station himself in the area, but not in the same tree.

Craig was recently watching a nest, which has produced offspring the last five years, when he noticed the male spring into action nearby.

“All of a sudden, a second-year immature eagle began flying to the nest,” Craig said. “Out of nowhere, the male got up and chased the other bird away. It most likely was their previous offspring.”

Once the eaglets hatch, there’s still plenty of moments for family time.

One of the nests, courtesy Joel Craig

“They stay with their parents for the summer to fly and to learn how to hunt. At 24 weeks, they are still getting food,” Craig said. “One of the things the young eagles do is if the adults catch a fish, the young eagle will try to take it away to show independence.”

Craig, who has been volunteering with Will County since 2008, said while bald eagle populations are still threatened, they are now booming in the area compared to in the past.

“Their comeback is a 50-year conservation success story,” Craig said. “Populations were decimated because of the use of DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane). What we are seeing now is being directly traced to 1972 — The Environmental Protection Act and banning DDT.”

Last year, the group tracked six known eagle nests in Will County. The area is even more of a hot bed, compared to other parts of the U.S., due to the amount of water.

“Will County is in a unique location because of three rivers into the Illinois River, you got all of this water, which is prime territory for bald eagles,” he said.

Eagles and their nests are federally-protected due to The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits anyone from taking a bald eagle or their nests.

If any resident should come across a nest, The National Audubon Society recommends staying at least 330 feet away.

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