High in a fir tree in southeast Bend rests a golden eagle nest, a rare occurrence for a United States neighborhood.
On the land below, a developer is seeking approval to build 82 new homes.
Unlike in rural Deschutes County, proposed developments in Bend’s city limits don’t often run into complications of wildlife regulation. But this proposal, which is nearing a decision from a city planner, highlights the potential for conflict between construction and conservation as Bend’s remaining urban infill housing is built.
Karen Swenson, the city senior planner assigned to the project, said the decision she’ll issue will include information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about how the presence of eagles would limit construction.
“There are some restrictions on what they can and cannot do during certain times,” Swenson said.
The property is about 15 acres, split between two adjoining lots. It’s north of Tillicum Village and would be directly south of Brosterhaus Road if the road continued straight instead of curving north.
Arbor Builders, which did not return phone calls, plans to build 82 single-family homes. But a pair of golden eagles have already built at least three nests on or near the land.
Eagles have been active on the property since 2014, said Sue Anderson. She and her husband, Jim, work for the Oregon Eagle Foundation and have spent decades monitoring and banding golden eagles in Central Oregon.
“Once they establish a nest site, they tend to stay there,” Sue Anderson said. “However, this is an unusual pair because golden eagles normally do not nest in populated areas. This is the only known one to nest in a neighborhood in the United States.”
Golden eagle nests are typically at least 5 feet wide and 2 feet high and weigh hundreds of pounds, according to the Deschutes Land Trust. The birds make their nests of sticks and vegetation, and they can use the same nest every year or alternate between nests.
The birds generally nest on cliff edges, but their nests also can be found in tall ponderosa pines or transmission towers.
Plans filed with the city list several trees that will be removed, but the one containing the current nest isn’t among them.
The nest the southeast Bend pair used in 2018 has been well-hidden, said Betsy Brown, who lives next door to the proposed development.
“It’s actually not even visible from the tree it’s in, at the base of the tree,” she said. “They’ve done a really good job to find a nest tree that’s well-concealed.”
Eagles typically arrive at nesting sites in December or January. If they aren’t there by Feb. 1 of the year builders want to begin construction, work can move forward without any eagle-related restrictions, according to an email from Jerry Cordova, a biologist in the Bend office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
If eagles are at the site after Feb. 1, that means they probably have an egg. Builders would need to obtain from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service an eagle permit, which restricts whether and when blasting would be allowed.
If there isn’t an eaglet present by April 1, that permit requirement goes away. Otherwise, it stays in effect until the eaglet fledges, usually in July.
Golden eagles can live 35 to 40 years and typically return to the same site to nest, Anderson said. A pair’s offspring also might return to the same area to nest.
“They can keep coming back to the nest for a long time,” she said. “A nest can be active for an unlimited amount of time.”
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