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Exclusive: Toronto’s first documented bald eagle nest discovered

Earlier this winter, when Toronto resident, K.J. McCusker was out observing nature, he saw something unusual soaring above the city.

“That bird is really big. It can’t be what I think it is. No. It can’t be,” he thought to himself.

There’s a good reason McCusker couldn’t believe his eyes. There has never been a documented bald eagle pair – nesting in Toronto — until now.

“Total miracle… being here for twenty years, you just don’t see eagles and I come from a place where you see eagles, from out west, so we see eagles all the time and I just remember hanging out in ceremony with some people and saying like, why don’t you ever see eagles here,” said McCusker.

The Indigenous community is quietly and respectfully celebrating what Elder Duke Redbird is calling a “ray of hope” and “a really good omen for Toronto.”

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“In the Indigenous community, amongst the highest honour you can bestow on anybody is to offer an eagle feather,” said Redbird.

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“They (Bald Eagles) represent something that’s really good for the City of Toronto.”

Once listed as endangered and nearly locally extinct, mostly as a result of hunting and the widespread use of the pesticide DDT, bald eagles have been making a comeback along the shores of Lake Ontario.

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In 2013, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ont., was home to the first eaglets to hatch on the Canadian shoreline of Lake Ontario in more than 50 years.

The pair in Toronto, nesting in a location Global News has decided not to reveal, is making history as the first to nest in Canada’s largest city.  So, why haven’t bald eagles nested here before now?

“One of the big concerns here still in Southern Ontario would be development along shorelines and areas where they would like to nest. They also need massive trees to nest in. The bald eagle can build the largest nest on record. They’ve actually crushed trees they’ve built their nest in,” said Jon Spero, Lead Bird Keeper, Toronto Zoo.

More than this, bald eagles need to be close to a healthy fish population and far enough away from human disturbance.

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“If they feel sufficiently disturbed, they might just abandon the nest altogether, even with eggs or small chicks in it, and try to nest somewhere else so, this time is really critical.  We really have to be respectful,” said Spero.

The community members’ aware of Toronto’s newest raptor-residents are also hoping these majestic birds of prey will get the respect they deserve.

“That’s my primary hope, is that they get to call this home.  And they get to feel a sense of entitlement to call it home, that people are going to respect it as being their home,” said McCusker.

“I know that the people of Toronto are going to honour them and allow them to have the privacy that they need to raise their eaglets,” said Redbird.

For now, the nest discovery is being celebrated as an extremely positive sign that environmental repair is possible.

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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