Bald Eagle spotted a fourth time, may be striking up relationship with sculpture

Published 2:41 pm Friday, January 7, 2011

Pearl Palmeri’s son, Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Al Latour, was coming home for Christmas, and she wanted to surprise him with a special gift.

She had a concrete-cast Bald Eagle sculpture she had purchased at a flea market, so she decided to paint it and mount it on her brick mailbox pillar at the foot of the drive to her home at 77 Ridgeland Drive.

She went on the Internet and printed, as a guide, a color picture of a Bald Eagle, the national bird, and then began the project first by sanding the statue. She was very meticulous in her painting, even duplicating the color of the bird’s feet and claws.

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Her husband, Terry, gave it a clear coat of sealer after she finished painting it, and they mounted it on top of the brick pillar. “It was to welcome home my son and to represent the Marine Corps, to which he has devoted his life,” said Palmeri.

Then on Dec. 23, Gail Miller, who lives next door, was coming home from work and spotted a real live Bald Eagle, standing in the middle of the road, gazing at the statue.

Miller’s sighting was the fourth time that a real live Bald Eagle has been spotted in or around Hide-A-Way Lake.

However, in this fourth sighting, our local national bird might be headed for a big surprise in attempting to strike up a relationship with this full-sized replica of a Bald Eagle atop the Palmeri’s mailbox.

Gail Miller, wife of Neville Miller who owns Magnolia Monument Co. at 40 Pine Hill Dr.,  was driving home after work on Thursday, Dec. 23, and spotted the eagle, standing in the middle of Ridgeland Drive in Magnolia Ridge subdivision.

She slowed her car about 100 feet from the bird; it turned and looked at her, and then spread its magnificent wings and lifted off, circling around its newly found friend and then disappeared.

Miller told her husband she wondered why the bird was standing in the middle of the road, but she then realized it evidently thought it had found a friend when she pulled up next to her neighbor’s mailbox. “I had never really paid much attention to it,” she said. “The bird seemed mesmerized by it, however.”

Told what happened, Pearl Palmeri said, “Well, according to the real eagle, I must have done an excellent job painting the statue. I will take his arrival as a compliment to my work.”

Her husband said he had seen the bird circling over his home but had no idea what it was up to.

“The bright, realistic coloring evidently attracted the bird’s attention as it made its regular rounds,” said Terry Palmeri.

Bald Eagles are known for their binocular vision, which is four times sharper than a human’s. They can spot prey from hundreds, and even thousands of feet, in the air. Researchers say that from 1,000 feet overhead, a Bald Eagle can spot game in a three-mile radius. They see in color and their eyes are about the same size as a human’s and they also blink.

A Bald Eagle has two eyelids. The inner eyelid slides back and forth involuntarily across the eye every three or four seconds, acting like a windshield wiper, cleaning the cornea. It does not interfere with the Eagle’s vision since the lid is translucent, says the website

Said Neville Miller, “He, or she, thought that they had found a friend and possible mate, evidently. There is no other explanation of why the bird would be standing in the middle of the road. And when my wife approached, he was looking at the sculpture.”

Bald Eagles are noted fishermen and that would explain, too, why the bird has been spotted so many times near Hide-A-Way and once in the development itself just north of Picayune. There is a large lake in the development, surrounded by tall pines, in which the eagle can perch and watch for fish near the lake’s surface.

They also catch small game, like rabbits and field mice.

Other sightings include behind City Hall in a wooded area, where two birds established a nest last year; in Hide-A-Way itself where a resident snapped a picture of the bird perched in a pine; and then on Dec. 18 on Richardson-Ozona Road in the backyard of Edward Pullens. There is no way of knowing whether the bird recently spotted is one of the pair behind City Hall or a new arrival.

Pullens’ daughter, Brandy Maples, snapped a spectacular picture of the bird, alighting on a perch near a pond in Pullens’ backyard.

She said she was afraid of the bird and ran back to the house after snapping the picture. However, the bird has never been known to attack humans.

The Bald Eagle was named the U.S.’s national emblem on June 20, 1782. It was chosen because of its striking, fearless look. Continental Congress member Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey selected as the national bird because of its intelligence. However, the congress chose the eagle for its indomitable looks.

The bird is not bald, but was named that for its brilliant white plumage covering its neck and head. In the 1700s and earlier the word “bald” also meant white.

The bird was placed on the endangered species list when its numbers dwindled into the 100s in the late 1950s and 1960s, mostly because of the pesticide DDT. It was taken off the endangered list as its numbers quickly rebounded in the second half of the 20th century.

The Bald Eagle’s range is the entire North American continent, from Alaska to Mexico, and it began re-establishing itself in the Southeastern United States when it was protected. Its current increasing numbers show that the bird has rebounded quickly from near extinction.

Although the bird is off the endangered list, it is still illegal to harm a Bald Eagle. Anyone injuring or killing a Bald Eagle can receive a maximum sentence of a year in jail and fined up to $100,000.