Winged migrants get new deluxe loft accommodations

A new apartment was erected on a prime, riverfront location in downtown Whitehorse on Thursday afternoon.

A new apartment was erected on a prime, riverfront location in downtown Whitehorse on Thursday afternoon.

There is no pushy landlord collecting rent in this sturdy loft.

There’s no plumbing or electricity either.

In fact, it doesn’t even have a roof.

But that just makes it easier for its intended occupants to call this pad home.

Officials hope that the new digs will entice Whitehorse’s most famous bald eagles to return to their nesting spot near Robert Service Campground to roost and raise their young for another season.

“When the birds come back in a month or so, they will have a deluxe nesting platform that will allow them to successfully raise some young again this summer,” said conservation officer Tony Grabowski.

Grabowski was one of the officers watching as a group of Yukon Electric Company and Klondike Welders employees dug a hole in the ground and erected the loft using a bucket truck and heavy machinery.

The eagles’ new digs consist of a slatted metal bowl two metres in diameter that is welded atop a 12-metre pole.

If there is a heavy rain, water will just drain out the bottom.

The design has been used in British Columbia where it’s more than doubled success rates of eagle offspring, said Grabowski.

The crew placed the new manufactured nest directly beneath the eagles’ old nest and scooped the twigs, leaves and branches into its bowl.

It’s common for a eagle pair to return to the same place year after year to nest and mate, said Grabowski.

Each day last summer, curious birders planted themselves with cameras and spotting scopes in the pullout near Robert Service Campground to watch the four birds nest and feed.

“This spot right here — I’ve been told it was the No. 1 tourist attraction in Whitehorse,” said Grabowski.

“It’s natural entertainment at its finest. When people can be involved with wildlife and observe it, they’re more apt to preserve it,” he added.

But late last June tragedy struck the birds’ fragile home.

A heavy rain weighed down their grass-lined pad and sent part of the nest plunging from the high tree to the riverbank.

With it fell two flightless eaglets.

A local resident noticed the damage and called in conservation officers from Environment Yukon.

With help from Yukon Electrical staffers, the officers rescued the baby birds and reinforced the nest with wire so it wouldn’t fall apart again.

But this year, they’ve come up with a permanent solution.

Yukon Electrical Company donated the pole and Whitehorse-based Klondike Welding built the basket.

“It makes me really proud to be a Yukoner when folks can get together for a good cause and take it from the concept through to completion,” said Grabowski.

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