Two eagles that have made their home at Rankin Lake Park have welcomed new additions to the Gastonia community.

Officials with the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville confirmed a pair of baby eagles were born at the park, perhaps as early as three weeks ago. Eagles will typically spend about 18 weeks in the nest before migrating elsewhere, according to Michele Miller Houck, assistant executive director Carolina Raptor Center.

But, Houck cautioned, there's no guarantee both will leave alive.

"There is some evidence of sibling rivalry when there is more than one, so they may not both survive," Houck said.

Once considered an endangered species, eagles are now spread throughout the Southeast. Houck estimated about 100 nesting pairs live in North Carolina.

The birds typically avoid urban areas and wouldn't be spotted in heavily populated areas like Charlotte, she said. But Rankin Lake Park offers plenty to attract the adult eagles.

"Gastonia would be a kind of urban area," she said. "Around a lake, because that's the food source, they would nest near a food source."

Mike Weaver, an employee who rents out paddle boats at the park, said the adults have been here about two years.

He's spotted the birds diving toward the water and scooping up prey before flying into the woods.

"It's wild when you see it," he said. "You don't expect to see it out here."

These aren't the only eagles to have made their home in Gaston County in recent years. Another pair set up a nest in a Belmont backyard, according to Houck.

The eagles co-parent the hatchlings, and nesting occurs once per year. Once the newborns leave the nest, the adult eagles do their own thing until the next mating season, she said.

The surviving newborn or newborns who leave the nest won't necessarily stay local. The Carolina Raptor Center still tracks the flight path of an eagle that was born two years ago at a Salisbury park.

That bird has since flown as far north as Montreal before migrating south to Hilton Head, South Carolina. On Friday, it found itself in Claremont between Hickory and Statesville, according to an app that tracks its progress.

 

You can reach Adam Lawson at 704-869-1842 or on Twitter @GazetteLawson.