What once was a rare sight is becoming more common in Johnson County.

Last week, the buzz among employees at Berry Plastics in Franklin was about two bald eagles that hung around the company’s pond for nearly four days.

The birds were spotted flying above the pond, swooping down to catch fish and going back and forth between the pond and a cornfield next to the building.

Story continues below gallery

Employee Christy Hudson said she had seen bald eagles in captivity but had never seen America’s national bird in the wild.

“To see them in the wild, in their natural surroundings, was beautiful,” Hudson said. “They are very majestic birds. It was absolutely breathtaking.”

Sightings like Hudson’s could become more common in Johnson County. Two nests have been documented in Johnson County, but there is always the possibility for more, said Amy Kearns, a bird biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

There are an estimated 250 bald eagle nests in Indiana, and most are in the central and south-central region of the state.

The population of bald eagles in Indiana is doing so well, the species was taken off of the state’s endangered list in 2008, Kearns said. Bald eagles have recovered so well in the state that the Indiana Fish and Wildlife Division stopped monitoring the birds in 2010, she said.

The growth of the population is the result of a plan that began in 1985, when the state reintroduced 73 chicks into the wild during a four-year span.

One of those eagles is still alive and is now 27 years old, Kearns said. The state has continued to track the bird, which has traveled as far as Tennessee and is still nesting, she said.

Prior to that reintroduction, the last known nest in the state was recorded in 1897.

“Bald eagles are doing really well in Indiana, and we are seeing more birds in more areas,” Kearns said. “They are a pretty big success story for us.”

The success of the species has a lot to do with residents keeping their distance, which is the reason for strict rules about what to do if you encounter an eagle’s nest. Some eagles can be very relaxed and will nest or live within a close proximity to people.

Officials recommend keeping a minimum of 330 feet away from an active nest.

If an eagle is disturbed during the nesting period, it could abandon the nest, leaving eggs or chicks behind.

If it can be proved that a person is to blame for an eagle abandoning its nest, that can carry a steep punishment, including up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, Kearns said.

Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at celliot@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2719.