FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Anyone who has had the opportunity to go beyond the developed areas and venture into the forested lands of Fort Jackson has likely encountered a multitude of wildlife species. With more than 50,000 acres of upland pine stands, hardwood ridges, bottomlands, wetlands, lakes and streams, the diversity of habitats found here allows a vast array of wildlife to call Fort Jackson home.

The composition of species found on post ranges from very common species, such as the white-tailed deer and wild turkey, to some that can only be found in the coastal plain of the Southeast, such as the American alligator. Even the red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered species, inhabits the forests of Fort Jackson.

With so many wild creatures finding these lands to their liking, it should come as no surprise that two more visitors have decided to take up residence here just a few years ago.

The two new residents are a nesting pair of bald eagles. The pair's nest was discovered in a training area near the upper end of Dupre Pond. Even though many eagles have been sighted flying around the property in the past, this discovery marked the first ever bald eagle nest to be documented on Fort Jackson.

Soon after locating the nest, personnel from the Fort Jackson Wildlife Branch began monitoring the site on a weekly basis during the nesting season. The pair is now entering its fourth nesting season, having parented five young thus far. In late December, Wildlife Branch personnel were able to confirm that the birds are once again incubating eggs.

Bald eagles generally nest in large live pine trees near open bodies of water. The water provides a food source in the form of fish and various waterfowl species, which are both preferred prey items of the eagles. Their nests, which are built from sticks, are quite large, often approaching 6 feet in width with a depth of nearly 3 feet.

Young eagles will remain in the nest for about 12 weeks after hatching. During this time period, the chicks will complete their growth and be just as large as their parents before leaving the nest. Even though they will be sporting the same 6-foot wingspan as the adults, juvenile eagles will remain dark in coloration and will not show their adult plumage, which is characterized by the wellknown white head and tail and bright yellow bill, until they are approximately 6 years old.

Fort Jackson's nest was found high in an old pine tree on the edge of the wetland at the head of Dupre Pond. This spot exhibits all of the characteristics of a typical eagle nest location. The area around the pond will provide ample opportunity for viewing these birds, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Even though the bald eagle was taken off the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007, it is still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and is still listed as a state-threatened species.

This means that birds and their nests cannot be disturbed. In addition to some aviation restrictions that are being implemented, there is a 330-feet buffer zone around the nest tree, and entry into this area in any manner is prohibited.

For those wishing to observe the birds, the pond dam along Salem Road and the adjacent picnic and boat launch areas would be ideal locations.

Page last updated Thu February 7th, 2013 at 09:09