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America’s Bald Eagle Population Quadruples Since 2009

America’s Bald Eagle Population Quadruples Since 2009
Source: Unsplash/ Cadop

In 2009 there were only around 72,000 bald eagles in the lower 48 states, but now researchers say the population is above 300,000 — including more than 71,400 nesting pairs.

America’s Bald Eagle Population QuadrupleS since 2009

After being threatened with extinction, the American bald eagle population has quadrupled since 2009 — a swift recovery that Martha Williams, deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, calls "one of the most remarkable conservation success stories of all time," — AP News.

Scientists say the bald eagle's return highlights the importance of decades of conservation efforts, The New York Times reported.
A report released on Wednesday 24 March by The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated 316,700 individual bald eagles are living in the lower 48, including more than 71,400 nesting pairs. Scientists say the bald eagle’s return highlights the importance of decades of conservation efforts, The New York Times reported. Source: Unsplash/Bryan Hanson

Bald eagles back from the brink of extinction

According to a news report issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, populations of the American bald eagle — the bold national symbol of the United States — have quadrupled since 2009, according to a new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners. 

Bald eagles once teetered on the brink of extinction, reaching an all-time low of 417 known nesting pairs in 1963 in the lower 48 states. However, after decades of protection, the banning of the pesticide DDT, and conservation efforts with numerous partners, the bald eagle population has flourished, growing to more than 71,400 nesting pairs.

According to scientists from the Service’s Migratory Bird Program, the bald eagle population climbed to an estimated 316,700 individual bald eagles in the lower 48 states. This indicates the bald eagle population has continued to increase rapidly since their previous survey. The information is now available in the new technical report: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Final Report: Bald Eagle Population Size: 2020 Update

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said at her first public appearance since being sworn in as the first Native American cabinet secretary.
“The strong return of this treasured bird reminds us of our nation’s shared resilience and the importance of being responsible stewards of our lands and waters that bind us together,″ — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said at her first public appearance since being sworn in as the first Native American cabinet secretary. Source: Unsplash/Bryan Hanson

“one of the most well-known conservation success stories of all time,”

“Today’s announcement is truly a historic conservation success story. Announcements like ours today give me hope. I believe that we have the opportunity of a lifetime to protect our environment and our way of life for generations to come. But we will only accomplish great things if we work together,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

“The recovery of the bald eagle is one of the most well-known conservation success stories of all time,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “The Service continues to work with our partners in state and federal agencies, tribes, non-government organisations and with private landowners to ensure that our nation’s symbol continues to flourish.”

To estimate the bald eagle population in the lower 48 states, Migratory Bird Program pilot biologists and observers from many Service regions, programs and contract observers conducted aerial surveys over a two-year period in 2018 and 2019. The Service flew aerial surveys over high-density eagle nesting areas to generate accurate estimates and count occupied nesting territories. 

To obtain information on the lower density eagle nesting areas, the agency worked with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to use eBird relative abundance data to acquire information on the areas that were not practical to fly as part of our aerial surveys.

Source: FWS 

But after actions like banning the pesticide DDT and placing the national bird on the endangered species list, bald eagle populations grew.
In 1963, the bald eagle numbers were at an “all-time low” of 417 known nesting pairs. But after actions like banning the pesticide DDT and placing the national bird on the endangered species list, bald eagle populations grew. “The bald eagle has always been considered a sacred species to American Indian people,” Secretary Haaland said,. “Similarly it’s sacred to our nation as America’s national symbol.” Source: Unsplash/Mathew Schwartz

Impressive engagement between the FWS and citizen science programs

“Working with Cornell to integrate data from our aerial surveys with eBird relative abundance data on bald eagles is one of the most impressive ways the Service has engaged with citizen science programs to date,” stated Service Assistant Director for Migratory Bird Program Jerome Ford. “This critical information was imperative to accurately estimate the bald eagle population in the contiguous United States, and we look forward to working with Cornell in the future.”

“One of our main objectives was to see if population modeling based on the Cornell Lab’s eBird data would enhance the survey work the Service was already doing,” said Viviana Ruiz-Gutierrez, Assistant Director of Cornell Lab’s Center for Avian Population Studies, who supervised the lab’s role in this partnership. “We now have greater confidence in using our results to supplement the Service’s monitoring efforts, and we’re hoping that this will allow the Service to track bald eagle populations over a much wider area in the most cost-effective manner in the future.”

Based on those two major sets of data for this population estimate, the Service next created an integrated population model to expand the estimates of the number of occupied nests across the plot area to estimates of the entire population in the lower 48 states. Data on survival rates, productivity and breeding rates provided the information needed to make this conclusion.

This technical report is the second in a series of reports that have been published on bald and golden eagles. For more information on bald eagle management and additional background, please click here

This good news from the world of wildlife comes hot on the heels of our article “10 UNDERREPORTED BUT ENCOURAGING WILDLIFE WINS”, which covers whales, rhino, lynx and other conservation and protection successes from around the world.

Source: FWS  Additional info: NewYorkTimes

Over the span of 2018 and 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Program conducted aerial observations over popular eagle nesting areas to estimate populations. “The Service continues to work with our partners in state and federal agencies, tribes, non-government organisations and with private landowners to ensure that our nation’s symbol continues to flourish,” Williams said in the release. Source: Unsplash/Meg Jerrard
A neurological disease that paralyses and kills bald eagles and other birds is linked to a new species of bacteria that grows on an invasive aquatic weed, the scientists found. While the invasive weed is expected to spread, scientists celebrate their discovery — finally identifying an unknown killer and equipped with the knowledge to help protect birds in the future.
The report on the bald eagle’s recovery comes at the same time scientists identified a mysterious disease that has been killing bald eagles and other birds in the U.S. for more than 25 years. A neurological disease that paralyses and kills bald eagles and other birds is linked to a new species of bacteria that grows on an invasive aquatic weed, the scientists found. While the invasive weed is expected to spread, scientists celebrate their discovery — finally identifying an unknown killer and equipped with the knowledge to help protect birds in the future. Source: Science
News of the bald eagle’s recovery has also been celebrated by conservationists and scientists who see the new interior secretary playing a larger role in helping species, threatened and listed as endangered, recover. “We will be taking a closer look at all of those revisions and considering what steps to take to ensure that all of us — states, Indian tribes, private landowners and federal agencies — have the tools we need to conserve America’s natural heritage and strengthen our economy,” said Haaland. “We have an obligation to do so because future generations must also experience our beautiful outdoors, the way many of us have been blessed.” Source: Unsplash/Mathew Schwartz
The government sponsored a bounty of 50 cents a bird, and later a dollar, leading to more than 120,000 confirmed killings. By the mid-20th century, all but a few hundred bald eagles were presumed dead, killed off largely by widespread use of the synthetic insecticide DDT. The bald eagle population reached its lowest point of 417 known nesting pairs in 1963, researchers said.
In 1917, bald eagles were considered a menace in Alaska. The government sponsored a bounty of 50 cents a bird, and later a dollar, leading to more than 120,000 confirmed killings. By the mid-20th century, all but a few hundred bald eagles were presumed dead, killed off largely by widespread use of the synthetic insecticide DDT. The bald eagle population reached its lowest point of 417 known nesting pairs in 1963, researchers said. Source: Unsplash/Lucas Rosin
Through protection and conservation efforts, and the banning of DDT in 1972, the population was able to recover over the years.
The bald eagle was removed from Endangered Species Act protection in 2007. Through protection and conservation efforts, and the banning of DDT in 1972, the population was able to recover over the years. Source: Unsplash/Johnathan Ciarrocca
While many celebrated the increase in numbers, bald eagles in recent years have become a nuisance for poultry farmers hoping to raise a full, healthy stock, prompting many to apply for an eagle-depredation permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
You can’t please all of the people all of the time. While many celebrated the increase in numbers, bald eagles in recent years have become a nuisance for poultry farmers hoping to raise a full, healthy stock, prompting many to apply for an eagle-depredation permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service. Source: Unsplash/Alex Guillaume
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