Despite area development, eagles' nest in Viera perseveres

Two bald eagles have built a nest in this tree for several years.

You might not realize it, but an eagle’s nest has been thriving just off the northbound on-ramp to Interstate 95 from Viera Boulevard. 

The nest is visible from Viera Boulevard but even more so as you get off the road and onto Interstate 95 on the driver’s right-hand side. 

It turns out, according to Shawnlei Breeding, the Audubon EagleWatch program manager with the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland, the nest is home to a pair of mated bald eagles. It was first active in 2009, but Breeding said that represents the first year it was reported and not necessarily the year it became active. 

Breeding added that Florida has one of the largest breeding populations of bald eagles outside of Alaska. 

"We are fortunate to live here and be able to see them!," said Breeding in an e-mail.

Despite the fact it rests in a dead or dying pine tree, Breeding said one chick was fledged in the nest in 2019 and two more were fledged in 2020. 

There have been issues with the nest that has threatened its tranquility, but the nest and eagles have proven to be resilient. 

In December 2017, Breeding said a volunteer with Audubon let her know that trees were being cleared out by the nest. After reaching out to both the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it was determined by an FWC officer that the work being done by a developer did not meet the federal bald eagle management guideline requirements of not working within 330 feet of the nest during nesting season. 

The USFWS added that it didn’t have a permit because the developer had said it would follow the guidelines. The work was stopped and a chick was fledged that season, Breeding said.

The nest is referred to in Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission parlance under the name BE072.

Breeding added she received photos of the tree last year that showed that the tree appeared to be dying and a drive by the area shows this to be the case.  

Still, despite the issues with the tree, Breeding said one chick was fledged in the nest in 2019 and two more were fledged in 2020. The latter chicks were able to be fledged even after Breeding said a volunteer reported in February of this year that someone had driven over a sidewalk and curb in the area and had parked under the nest and was disturbing the eagles.

Breeding added that she was pleased by the conservation efforts that have been made relative to bald eagles. 

"Bald eagles are one of our great conservation success stories," Breeding said in the e-mail. "They were near the brink of extinction in the early 1970s, but made an amazing recovery after laws were put in place to protect them (including banning the pesticide DDT). Even today, it’s heartening to see everyone working together and taking the right steps to protect bald eagles and their nests (and other wildlife) in Florida. It really does take all of us keeping an eye out for them and reporting any concerns to FWC, the authority for enforcing the laws that protect bald eagles."