Eagles Count

Bald eagles have made a stunning comeback in Pennsylvania since the 1960’s when only a couple of nesting pairs survived DDT.  There are now at least 174 nesting pairs in the state.

We know these numbers because of the PA Game Commission’s careful management of the species and because of the Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey which is happening right now across the lower 48 states (except Florida), December 29 through January 12.

Unlike the Christmas Bird Count, the Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey has pre-defined routes assigned by a statewide coordinator and most of the participants are state and federal wildlife employees.  It’s a very precise, scientific survey which does not change locations from year to year.  The goal is to count the same way every year without overlap.  Click here to read more.

Why count in the dead of winter?  January is a great time to see bald eagles because the trees are bare and the birds are courting, building nests and roosting for warmth.  This year the PA Game Commission is especially interested in the roost sites because it’s important to preserve them as winter habitat. 

Habitat preservation is an important part of the PA Game Commission’s bald eagle management plan.  The birds are now so numerous that they can be de-listed in Pennsylvania but this success will only continue if we are careful not to undermine what we have today.  Toward that end the PGC has published a Draft Bald Eagle Management Plan for 2010 to 2019.  It’s a fascinating document that describes the bald eagle’s lifestyle, its history in the state, and PGC’s plan for making sure we have plenty of eagles in years to come. 

You can read the draft management plan here and send your comments through March 3. 

Check out the plan to see what’s going on with our eagles.  They really count in Pennsylvania!

(photo by Chuck Tague)

5 thoughts on “Eagles Count

  1. So, are there more Bald Eagle nests in PA than Peregrine Falcons? If I remember right, Art said that there were only 46 or so Peregrine nests in the state? Or maybe I read that in an article somewhere else?

  2. Steve, peregrines are even more rare than that. Before DDT there were 44 peregrine nests in Pennsylvania (I’d heard 46 in the past). The vast majority of these nests were on cliffs.

    As of late 2009, PA had only 24 nesting pairs of which 20 were on man-made structures. Until more peregrines nest on cliffs they will remain endangered in PA. I am not sure what target they have to reach to be de-listed here but they are not endangered at the federal level, primarily due to their recovery in the West.

  3. wow, so the interest in the Tarentum Bridge nest was warranted. I’ll get out there this spring and check things out. My dad is keeping an eye out. He had something kill a pigeon in his back yard and left a nice circle of feathers in the last few weeks.

  4. Kate ~

    I just had a quick question, and I wasn’t sure where to post it…

    If I remember correctly, last spring, a bald eagle’s nest was discovered west of the Point along the Ohio River. Wisely, the location wasn’t revealed. I believe the nest failed.

    I was wondering if there had been any sightings this year?

    Thanks for your help.

  5. The eagles did not lay eggs last year. I don’t have any news about their activities this year … yet.

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