What appear to be juvenile bald eagles sit on a tree along Cottage Road in South Portland on Sunday. Photo by Yoon S. Byun

SOUTH PORTLAND — It was a rather unlikely place for two birds of prey to land and hang out for a few hours – a tall, leafless tree overlooking Hobbs Funeral Home in South Portland’s Meetinghouse Hill neighborhood.

But that’s exactly where two bald eagles, which appeared to be juveniles, ended up Sunday afternoon, perched in the upper branches of the tree in the front yard of a home at 241 Cottage Road.

The eagles spent most of the afternoon in the tree, drawing a crowd of curious onlookers, who pulled their cars over so that they could snap photographs of the birds.

“It has been pretty neat to see them. They’ve been causing quite a stir,” said Patrick Mosley, who brought his two children as well as a neighbor’s child to watch the eagles. A neighbor, who had been walking a dog near the eagles’ perch, made him aware of the spectacle.

People stop to look at two bald eagles Sunday afternoon on Cottage Road in South Portland. Michele McDonald/Staff photographer

“It’s so huge,” 5-year-old Bromwyn Mosley remarked as she and her two friends romped through a grassy area across the street from the tree.

“It’s great,” added  7-year-old Ariana Simpson said as she peered up at one of the eagles.

The eagles’ appearance brought old friends together.

Beth Lubetkin of Cape Elizabeth spotted the birds earlier in the day and left the Meetinghouse Hill neighborhood to pick up a friend, Ruth Cohen of Portland, since they were planning to have dinner together. When Lubetkin drove past a second time, the eagles were still in the tree.

From left, Beth Luybetkin, Ruth Cohen and Bobbie Muse, new and old friends who met when they stopped to see the two bald eagles Sunday afternoon on Cottage Road in South Portland. One of the eagles was in a tree across from Hobbs Funeral Home for at least three hours. The second and larger one flew off and returned more than once. Michele McDonald/Staff photographer

While the women were watching the eagles, Cohen met another friend, Bobbie Muse, who lives on Cottage Road and had come to watch the eagles. It turns out that Lubetkin had met Muse about five years ago at the Jewish Film Festival.

Doug Hitchcox, a staff naturalist with Maine Audubon in Falmouth, said it is not uncommon to see eagles in urban settings.

The population of eagles in Maine is undergoing a resurgence, and Hitchcox said Mainers can expect to see more of the birds in areas that you might not expect to encounter one.

“The eagle population  has come back in Maine and the odds of encountering one has gotten much higher,” he said Sunday. “It’s a highlight of a great success story of being able to re-establish the eagle population in Maine.”

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife did a statewide inventory of nesting bald eagles in 2018 and determined there were 734 nesting pairs – an increase of 102 nesting pairs since 2013. Population increases occurred in all 16 counties, according to the inventory.

Maine’s bald eagles are primarily fish eaters, but in coastal estuaries and offshore they can eat a more varied diet that includes seabirds and waterfowl. Scavenging for carrion becomes more prevalent when ice forms over waterways, limiting their food availability.

“Who knows what would make those eagles sit in a tree on Cottage Road? My hunch is they probably just ate a big meal. They like road kill,” Hitchcox said, adding that the birds might have needed some extra time to digest their prey.

What appears to be a juvenile bald eagle sits on a tree along Cottage Road in South Portland on Sunday. Photo by Yoon S. Byun

By late afternoon, as the sun was beginning to set, more than 20 people stood on sidewalks and snapped photographs of the one remaining bird. The bird – which appeared to be mostly black, as juvenile eagles are – remained still for several minutes.

Suddenly, without warning, just before 4 p.m., the last eagle left its perch, spread its wings, and took flight heading in the direction of Casco Bay.

Staff Photographer Michele McDonald contributed to this report.


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