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2007 Annual Survey of Bald Eagles Begins Following Record Year

January 10, 2007

ADCNR CONTACTS: Mark Sasser, 334-242-3469, Mark.Sasser@dcnr.alabama.gov

Keith Hudson, 256-760-8233, Keith.Hudson@dcnr.alabama.gov

Montgomery, Ala. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has launched the 23rd year of the Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey. Beginning in January, state wildlife biologists are flying in a state airplane throughout Alabama, counting wintering bald eagles.

The survey follows a record year for Alabama’s Bald Eagle Restoration Project. State wildlife biologists counted 77 bald eagle nests in Alabama in 2006 – a 21 percent increase over 2005 (61 nests) and the highest since the program began.

Since the early 1990s, a statewide aerial survey of bald eagle nests has also been conducted. However, following record nest numbers and the likelihood that the bald eagle will soon be removed entirely from the Endangered Species List, ADCNR biologists determined that every nest in the state need not be monitored. Instead during 2007, a selected sample of nests will be surveyed.

“The increase in the number of bald eagle nests is remarkable and demonstrates that our efforts to bring back bald eagles in Alabama are working. We should be able to detect any problem with our nesting population, should it occur, by monitoring an appropriate sample of nests,” says ADCNR Wildlife Biologist Keith Hudson, who helps monitor the nests. “The progress that has been made has exceeded recovery goals.”

The Alabama Bald Eagle Restoration Project is Making a Difference

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says that at one time there were more than 1 million bald eagles in the United States. The population dwindled in the 1950s and 1960s primarily due to the devastating effects of the pesticide DDT, which was banned in 1972. In the early and middle part of the 1900s, Alabama lost its nesting population of bald eagles due to habitat loss and the impact of DDT. Prior to restoration efforts, the last known successful bald eagle nest in Alabama was in the 1950s.

In 1984, the ADCNR Non-game Wildlife Program initiated a project to restore nesting bald eagles to the state. Over a seven-year period (1985-1991), 91 juvenile bald eagles were released from six different locations throughout the state in an attempt to imprint Alabama nesting territories on these young eagles. In 1991, two successful eagle nests appeared in Henry and Wilcox counties, and, since then, eagle nest numbers have continued to increase each year.

How Alabama Monitors Bald Eagles

ADCNR Wildlife experts begin their annual monitoring of bald eagles at about the same time each January, weather permitting. ADCNR Wildlife Biologist Keith Hudson and pilot Ray Stroud board a state plane and fly along the riverbanks of the Tennessee River in north Alabama to count wintering bald eagles.

ADCNR, along with biologists from various partnering federal natural resource agencies, also survey other large bodies of water in the state for wintering eagles. This annual midwinter survey has been conducted along the same standardized survey routes since 1979 and is coordinated by the ADCNR Non-game Wildlife Program. 

Where to Watch Bald Eagles

Wintering bald eagles migrate from northern states and Canada, and spend the winter in Alabama enjoying more moderate temperatures and ice-free waters. The best locations to view bald eagles in their natural habitat in north Alabama are:

·   The new North Alabama Birding Trail, offering 50 sites traversing the Tennessee Valley region of north Alabama identified along highways and roads by directional signage embellished with a kingfisher logo. Spots on the trail offering good opportunities to view bald eagles include: Natchez Trace Parkway/Colbert Ferry, North Sauty Creek WMA/Sauta Cave NWR and Buck’s Pocket State Park, Morgan’s Cove, and South Sauty Creek. Lake Guntersville State Park and Waterloo are usually the best locations on the trail for viewing eagles. For more information, visit www.northalabamabirdingtrail.com  

·   A stretch along Alabama Highway 227 north of Lake Guntersville State Park in the upper Town Creek watershed contains one of the largest bald eagle roosts in Alabama. The best vantage point is 2.6 miles east of the of the Marshall County Road 582 and Alabama Highway 227 intersection, where there is an overlook with a view of the valley below. There are several other locations around Lake Guntersville where eagles may be spotted. For more information, go by Lake Guntersville State Park and pick up a brochure or call the park at 1-800-548-4553.

·   The area around Waterloo, Ala., west of the Natchez Trace Parkway in northwestern Alabama offers excellent opportunities for viewing bald eagles. From Cherokee, Ala., at the junction of U.S. Highway 72 and the Natchez Trace Parkway, go north on the Natchez Trace for 11.4 miles to Lauderdale County Road (CR) 14. Turn left onto CR 14 and travel 10 miles to CR 1 just before the town of Waterloo. Turn right onto CR 1 and follow it north 1.5 miles to a picnic area along the lakeshore on the left.

Other good locations to view eagles in the Waterloo area include Brush Creek Park and the shoulders of Lauderdale CR14 where the road is right on the Tennessee River. The best way to see a bald eagle at Waterloo is to cruise the riverbanks of Pickwick Lake by boat. 

How to Watch Bald Eagles                            

·   Arrive early (7 a.m. - 9 a.m.) or stay late (4 p.m. - 5 p.m.), when eagles fly to and from roosts and are most active.

·   Scan the tree line along riverbanks for eagles that are sitting in the treetops.

·   Use binoculars or a spotting scope to observe the eagles closely. 

·   Photographers should use telephoto lenses.

·   Never approach an eagle or eagle nest.

·   Do not make loud or sudden noises.

·   Do not enter private property without the owner’s permission.

·   Follow all laws, rules and regulations governing the use of roads and public areas.

Guntersville State Park Eagle Weekends

January 13 and 14; January 20 and 21; January 27 and 28, 2007

These wonderful weekends offer the public opportunities to view bald eagles and learn more about the majestic bird. ADCNR experts offer tours to see the birds several times throughout the weekends. For more specific information on dates and times, call 256-571-5444 or e-mail guntersvillestpk@dcnr.alabama.gov.

Interesting Bald Eagle Facts

·   The bald eagle is considered a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is close to being delisted. That’s a dramatic improvement from its endangered species status.

·   About half of the world’s 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska.

·   Bald eagles have a wing span of seven to eight feet and can live up to 30 years.

·   The trademark white head and white tail do not develop until about five years of age.

·   Bald eagles can see prey from as far away as a mile and a half.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.

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