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Eagles adapt in wake of spillway crisis

Two eaglets sit in their nest atop a tree on the bank of the Feather River in Butte County.

When the Oroville Spillway nearly failed in 2017, a nest housing a family of bald eagles by Lake Oroville had to be relocated to a safer spot by the Department of Water Resources.

The bald eagles have nested in Butte County since 2005, and thanks to their resilience, they continue to thrive.

Ryan Martin, Senior Environmental Scientist for the Department of Water Resources, has been studying the eagles for years.

"As of today we've confirmed they've successfully fledged two young, which is pretty cool," Martin said. "A pretty good story for a pair that just built this nest this year."

DWR officials deemed it too logistically challenging to replace the 1000-pound nest for the eagles to use, so the new plan is to have it placed at the Lake Oroville Visitor Center. If all goes according to plan, it should be displayed for visitors to come and look at sometime this summer.

DWR initially replaced the original with a few artificial nests made of steel fencing, but the eagles decided to forgo the man-made housing and began rebuilding their home themselves.

To keep the public from crowding them, DWR laid down some guidelines for people in the area.

"We have territory management plans that actually set up protection buffers around the nest, and so we restrict certain activities within the nest territories during the breeding season," Martin said.

The eaglets are about seven weeks old. Martin says they should be taking their first flight soon.

They won't get the trademark white feathered heads until they're four or five years old.

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