MARSHALL, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Saturday morning, over 40 cars made the trek from Turkey Run State Park to the West Union Covered Bridge in Parke County.
The reason? To celebrate one of the most iconic animals in American history– the eagle.
The park hosted its annual “Eagles in Flight” event this weekend, hosting hundreds of people for a weekend full of festivities. Guest naturalist Eli Major said the morning roost was the biggest event of the weekend– happening both Saturday and Sunday morning.
“[The eagles] like this spot because the powerplant on the Wabash River keeps the water a little bit warmer which makes it easier to fish,” he said. “We get there in the predawn hours and wait a little bit for them to fly overhead. This year we saw 11, but in years past we’ve seen as many as 120.”
That was just the start of a day full of activities at the park. There was also a self-guided tour and two different “Live Birds of Prey” presentations– including one with a bald eagle.
Major said the bald eagle was the top attraction for the weekend.
“Eagles are the national bird, which drives a great deal of interest,” he said. “Once they reach their maturity, an age close to five, that’s when they get the iconic white head, dark brown body that we are accustomed to. So it’s just a very regal looking bird, in addition to its importance to American culture and American history.”
Major said the event was made possible by concerted efforts over decades by the state’s Department of Natural Resources to help increase local eagle populations– which once sat at critically low levels.
“Since the ban of the chemical DDT, and several reintroduction efforts, including in Indiana, we now have bald eagles nesting in every county of Indiana,” he said. “The last estimate I heard was we have over 400, and if you go back just a few decades, that number would’ve been in the single digits.”