The Raptor Series – Bald Eagle
Fort Clinch State Park comprises more than 1400 acres of beautiful beaches, ancient dunes, and maritime hammocks providing prime habitat for many different types of wildlife and a must-see for any out-of-town visitor. Likewise, we welcome all area residents to visit often and enjoy all the natural and historical resources the Park has to offer including the Park’s gem, Fort Clinch.
One type of wildlife found here includes the Bald Eagle, the proud national bird of the United States representing a nation of strength and freedom and found only in North America. Their numbers declined dramatically for much of the 20th Century due to hunting and pesticide use. However, the good news is that following the banning of DDT and additional protection measures their numbers have been increasing since the 1970s.
Fort Clinch State Park is fortunate to have an annual, and likely returning, pair nesting amongst our 1400 acres of prime eagle habitat. That habitat, typically close to water, includes 3 miles of coastline, two rivers flowing into the Cumberland Sound, and an abundant food source.
Bald Eagles live near bodies of water because that’s where you’ll find their favorite food – fish! They have specially equipped feet with spiny scales and sharp talons for grabbing fish. Rough pads on the bottom of each foot ensure a tight grip. An eagle’s eyesight is 4 times that of a human allowing the Bald Eagle to view its next meal from its flight high up in the air or upon its favorite perch amongst some of the tall pines located in the Park.
Bald Eagles also hunt rabbits, squirrels, other birds, carrion, and even young deer. All of which may be found within the Park’s boundaries and beyond. The Bald Eagle is a predator by nature but is known to scavenge a meal and steal from other birds, particularly the Osprey.
Bald Eagles first breed at 4 to 5 years of age and may mate for life. Both sexes help to build the nest, built of twigs, sticks, and lined with softer materials. They add to the nest each year and can be over 8-10’ in height. The largest nest ever recorded was in Florida and measured 9’ across, 20’ deep, and weighed over two tons.
The Fort Clinch Bald Eagle is an apex predator in the Park with no known adversaries. They are beautiful and majestic in flight or while perched on the Park’s highest trees. Some of the Park’s best observation points are the Egan’s Creek Overlook as they fly over the estuary to our west. Any walk along our coastline may also afford a chance to view this wonderful bird. Take a walkout either of the East or West Inlets or the Jetty or Beach Boardwalks.
Come over and visit Fort Clinch State Park and immerse yourself in “The Real Florida” and enjoy additional park experiences including, camping, fishing, hiking and biking, beachcombing, birding, swimming, and much more.
Take the time to visit www.floridastateparks.org for more information including camping reservations, day use, and annual passes. Fort Clinch State Park may be contacted at 904-277-7274.