Bald eagles back home in Indiana in record numbers

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Press release from the Department of Natural Resources:

Bald eagles back home in Indiana in record numbers
DNR helicopter surveys of bald eagle populations done over five days between March 31 and April 12 showed record numbers.

(April 15, 2010) A state-record 119 nests were considered to be occupied by eagle pairs, based on the presence of eagles observed or reported this year or on the condition of the nest indicating recent attendance. These 119 territories compares to the previous record 101 territories found in 2008 and 94 in 2009. Eight additional nesting sites were considered unoccupied due to the poor condition of the nest.

For most of the 20th century, bald eagles were absent as a nesting species in Indiana. The first recent nesting attempt was noted in 1989, and the first successful nests were observed in 1991. A total of 73 young eagles were released in Indiana from1985-89, to reestablish a breeding population.

Bald eagles were removed from the Federal Endangered Species list in 2007 and the Indiana list in 2008. They are considered a Species of Special Concern in Indiana.

The DNR checked 146 sites for bald eagle nests, including one nest in Kentucky and two in Illinois along the Indiana border. Information about three additional Hoosier nests from reliable sources was included in the DNR survey. All results refer to Indiana nests.

A record total of 97 of the nests checked were considered “active nests” in which eggs were laid. The record of 90 came in 2008 and 2009. Bald eagles lay eggs from late January to early April. Some nesting territories may be active for decades, although some bald eagles may build and use more than one nest.

“The numbers of active nests are likely underestimates because some nestings may have failed before the nests were checked,” said John Castrale, DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife non-game bird biologist.

Bald eagle nests were found by a survey in Allen, Adams, and Shelby counties for the first time ever, and found present in 50 Indiana counties overall. Eagle nests are most concentrated in southern and west-central Indiana, and along the Wabash River in central Indiana. Most nests are along the Wabash, White, and Ohio rivers, although some relatively small streams support eagle pairs. The most nests associated with a lake or impoundment is six at Patoka Lake.

In another first for the Indiana survey, Castrale, said that a bald eagle pair was noticed to have built a nest on something other than a tree-a wooden electrical tower in Sullivan County.

Other notable findings:

  • 19 of the found nest sites had not been known about previously and were brought to DNR’s attention by bird watchers and the general public.
  • 10 nests reported to DNR could not be found; most were in territories that had been abandoned or the nest trees had fallen.
  • Canada geese were using eagle nests in two instances.
  • Four reported nests were found to be red-tailed hawk nests and one was a great blue heron nest.
  • 120 adult eagles were observed at or near 97 Indiana nests.

Restoration and monitoring of bald eagles in Indiana is funded by donations from the DNR’s Nongame Fund and federal State Wildlife Grants. To donate to the DNR Nongame Fund, download and complete the Donation Form., print it, and send with check or money order to Nongame Fund, 402 W. Washington St. Rm. W273, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

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