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Seattle fireworks too scary for baby bald eagles

A fireworks show in celebration of the 2008 New Year erupts from the Space Needle at midnight in Seattle, Washington, January 1, 2008. REUTE
A fireworks show in celebration of the 2008 New Year erupts from the Space Needle at midnight in Seattle, Washington, January 1, 2008. REUTE

By Elaine Porterfield

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Just because they're both emblems of American pride doesn't mean fireworks and bald eagles should share the same skyline.

The floating launch pad for next week's July Fourth fireworks display in suburban Seattle is being moved from its usual site to avoid frightening a pair of baby bald eagles nesting in a tree on the shore of Lake Washington, sponsors of the event said on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the local National Audubon Society chapter said the two eaglets, still too young to fly, might be so startled by the pyrotechnics that they would jump out of their nest and plunge to the ground, leaving them injured or vulnerable to predators.

The fledgling national symbols, apparently unaware they are complicating the Independence Day festivities in the city of Kirkland, east of Seattle, currently spend their days perched in a tall lakeside Douglas fir in the town's Heritage Park.

They are believed to be six to eight weeks old, and probably won't start to fly until the beginning of August, said Mary Brisson, a board member and spokeswoman for Eastside Audubon.

The town's annual fireworks usually are set off from a barge floating in the lake near the park, and Brisson said her group recently asked that the display be moved from its traditional location for the sake of the young raptors. Organizers agreed.

As a result, the pyrotechnics company will relocate its launch site some 350 yards (meters) farther away from the nest, said Penny Sweet, founder of the civic group, Celebrate Kirkland, which oversees the fireworks.

The company also promised to tailor next Thursday's show to emphasize visual displays with less explosive noise to further minimize disturbing the eagle family.

"That's good for dogs and old people like me," Sweet said wryly.

She added that the new barge site will make the fireworks visible to more of the city as a whole.

Brisson said the revised plan adheres to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines requiring fireworks displays to be located at least a half-mile from an active bald eagle nest.

As an added attraction, the Audubon Society plans to set up a July Fourth observation site at Heritage Park allowing visitors to view the eaglets and their parents through spotting scopes after the annual holiday parade and before the fireworks.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler)

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