published Friday, May 30th, 2014

Berry College moving location of new $7 million football stadium to save eagles' nest

  • photo
    Berry College in Rome, Ga., has Web cameras trained on a pair of nesting eagles.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

WATCH THE EAGLES

See the Berry College eagle webcams at www.berry.edu/eaglecam

Berry College doesn't want its fledgling football program to interfere with its fledgling bald eagles.

That's why the private, four-year liberal arts college near Rome, Ga., is repositioning Valhalla, its $6.9 million stadium that will be home to Berry Viking football, lacrosse and track and field programs.

The college of 2,200 students, which launched its football program this year, had planned to build the stadium close to "the cage," as its Steven J. Cage Athletic and Recreation Center is nicknamed.

Then, in 2012, a pair of bald eagles built a nest 100 feet up a loblolly pine tree right next to the athletic center's parking lot. The eagles returned in 2013 and produced two eaglets. They came back again this year and on Feb. 22 hatched their third eaglet, a female named "B3."

"B is for Berry, three is for third," college spokeswoman Christine Kozelle said.

B3 is a celebrity, thanks to a high-definition "nest cam" donated by Sony and installed in September 2013 with help from Georgia Power. The camera gives a direct view inside the eagles' nest -- at night, too. It has infrared night vision that's invisible to the eagles, but shows the birds after dark. The nest cam's counter on Thursday afternoon showed 2,075 current viewers and 15.8 million total views.

People from around the world have watched the eaglet grow from a bobble-headed fluffball into an immature eagle that now leaves the nest for solo flights. The Berry College Eagles Facebook page has almost 60,000 friends, some of whom have made pilgrimages to see the eagles in person.

After the eagles arrived, the college applied for a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agreeing to shift the stadium to the south, provide additional plantings to serve as buffers and limit construction to the summer and early fall months when the nest was not in use.

This spring, out of respect for the eagles, college officials chose a new site for Valhalla in a pasture to the south of Maple Drive, the service entrance to the college's main campus, a college news release states. The stadium will be built about two-tenths of a mile away from the nest, Kozelle said.

"The eagles are mesmerizing -- better than any reality television show. And the truth is -- we are entranced by them, as well," Berry President Steve Briggs said in the news release.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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