Eagle eyes on 520 bridge




Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:33 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 12:56 PM

Video: RAW: Bald eagle perched over SR 520

SEATTLE - You see the traffic backup long before you spot the bird.

For weeks now, commuters have been treated to a spectacular sight, a majestic bald eagle, usually sitting on a lamp post on the Seattle side of the SR 520 bridge.

Department of Transportation bridge tech Jim Watkins sees the eagle almost daily from his perch in the bridge's tower.

"We have seen him swoop down and take fish out of the lake," he said.

He says there's usually a tip-off when the eagle has landed.

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"The traffic will slow down, and we'll wonder what's going on, if there's a stall or a slowdown, and then we get to the end of the bridge and the eagle's up on the luminaire," he said.

It turns out there's not just one bald eagle, but two eagle pairs, one on each end of the floating bridge.

"They also prey not only on fish but on a lot of waterfowl," said DOT wildlife biologist Michael McDonald.

Wildlife biologists say there's a large nest on the Seattle side that eagles have used for years, although they're not around as much in the winter.

"There's not as much food around, they have to divvy it up, so they really spread out," said McDonald.

Now if you drive 520 frequently and still haven't managed to see an eagle yet, wildlife biologists say there's no need to fret. They say by the beginning of June, they expect several more eagles to be hanging around the area - eagle chicks that is, since the adults are in a mating and nesting phase right now.

Commuters say they're happy to exchange a slower drive for a spectacular sight.