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Norfolk completes controversial removal of eagles' nests
by Pam Rotella
4 October 2012

Norfolk Botanical Garden eagle pair in 2010, photo by Pam Rotella The Virginian-Pilot is reporting that the City of Norfolk, Virginia has completed its controversial removal of bald eagles' nests from Norfolk Botanical Garden.

A bald eagle pair from the Garden had been featured on a very popular internet eagle cam in past years, often fledging three eaglets per year -- an unusual success rate for eagles in the wild.

In April of 2011, the female eagle was hit and killed by an airplane landing at Norfolk International Airport. Norfolk Botanical Garden is adjacent to the city's airport. Those visiting the botanical garden can climb an embankment near the visitors' center and watch planes being loaded on the other side of a chain link fence.

View of airport from Norfolk Botanical Garden, photo by Pam Rotella
The eagles had successfully nested in the Garden for eight years prior to the strike, and the male eagle had returned since to nest with a new mate.

The push to remove eagles' nests was very unpopular with bird watchers, the Garden's trustees, city residents, and even city officials.

The Virginian-Pilot reports "Councilman Tommy Smigiel, who had been advocating for the city to delay removing the nests, said he was 'disappointed mainly because I know there are bigger issues at Norfolk International Airport.' He noted that eagle strikes are only a marginal part of the total bird strikes.

"'This is not going to fix the issues, and I wish they would have looked at the avian radar system,' Smigiel said. 'I don't understand why they wouldn't.'"

..."Last Thursday, the Botanical Garden's board of trustees voted to form a task force to explore alternatives to nest removal. On Wednesday, the board held a special meeting and voted to 'regretfully accede' to the city's decision, according to a memo from the city."

"In addition, a group of eagle supporters also formed to encourage city leaders to explore other ways for the eagles to remain at the garden. They held a protest at the garden last month at which more than 100 gathered.

"Those who have lobbied for the delay were devastated to learn that the nests would come down. And Wednesday night, about a dozen came out despite the gray skies to say goodbye to the nests."

Ultimately the nests were removed yesterday morning. Norfolk's Mayor Paul Fraim and City Manager Marcus Jones supported the move.

More information on yesterday's nest removal is available at The Pilot Online.

All original content including photographs © 2012 by Pam Rotella.