Conservation Department Begins Its Annual Survey of Bald Eagles and Bald Eagle Nests

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources begins the 22nd year of the Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey, with its annual survey of over-wintering bald eagles.  Beginning in January 2006 and continuing through May, state wildlife biologists will fly in a state airplane throughout Alabama, counting wintering bald eagles and, later, bald eagle nests.

The new survey follows a record year for Alabama’s Bald Eagle Restoration Project. State wildlife biologists counted 61bald eagle nests in Alabama in 2005 — a 15 percent increase over 2004 (53 nests) and the highest since the program began.

“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,” 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 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 impacts from 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

Wildlife experts with the ADCNR begin their annual monitoring of bald eagles at about the same time each January, weather permitting. ADCNR’s 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. 

Then, beginning in February, Hudson, Stroud and Alabama Non-game Wildlife Coordinator Mark Sasser will fly statewide to conduct Alabama’s annual survey of bald eagle nests. The team will note the number of nests that are successful and the number of young they produce. This survey period lasts through May.

Where to Watch Bald Eagles

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



Other good locations to view eagles in the Waterloo area include Brush Creek Park and the shoulders of Lauderdale County 14 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


Joe Wheeler State Park Eagle Weekend

January 20–22, 2006

This wonderful weekend opportunity offers the public a chance to view bald eagles and learn more about the majestic bird.  ADCNR’s Keith Hudson will present the success story of the Alabama eagle restoration project and give the latest statistics of their recovery.  Participants will also learn about the new North Alabama Birding Trail.

Local bird-watching pontoon boat rides, as well as an actual tour of some of the NABT sites, will take place throughout the weekend. Weekend packages are available. For more information, visit


Interesting Bald Eagle Facts

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes the statewide stewardship and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy them. The department also advises the state government on management of freshwater fish, wildlife, marine resources, waterway safety, state lands, state parks and other natural resources. This includes the administration, management and maintenance of 22 state parks, 23 public fishing lakes, three freshwater fish hatcheries, 34 wildlife management areas, two waterfowl refuges, three nature centers, two wildlife sanctuaries, a mariculture center with 35 ponds and 645,000 acres of trust lands. Other departmental functions include maintenance of a State Land Resource Information Center and administration of the Forever Wild land-acquisition program.