Bald eagles don’t need a long runway to take flight, but they appear to enjoy hanging out on one anyway.
That’s the case for a convocation of as many as 50 eagles that have been gathering on the airstrips at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland on fall mornings — causing problems for the aircraft that need those runways to take off.
Conservation officials at the base have begun a months-long study of the birds to better understand why they’re spending more time in the area and on some of its most mission-critical stretches of asphalt.
“We don’t know where they’re coming from, why they’re coming or where they go when they leave,” said Kyle Rambo, director of environmental planning and conservation at the base.
Crews already band and monitor the activities of resident bald eagles on five nests on or near the 7,000-acre airfield. But the group of birds that spend time on the airstrips appear to be just passing through, showing up in large numbers on cool mornings in September and October.
Maybe their agents sent by the Canadian military!
More information about these eagles would help the base avoid another midair — or mid-airstrip — meeting between bald eagles and the base’s fleet of flyers, including V-22 Ospreys, F/A-18 Hornets and P-8 Poseidons.
In October 2019, a bald eagle caused nearly $4 million worth of damage to the engine of a large E-6 Mercury that struck the bird during takeoff. No personnel were injured, but the $141-million aircraft was grounded for weeks while it was repaired.
“We have always known that eagles have the potential to cause damage, but that was a big one,” Rambo said.
But it was worse from the Eagle's point of view.