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Press Release

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

January 12, 2006

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:

  • The new North Alabama Birding Trail offers 50 sites traversing the Tennessee Valley Region of north Alabama that are identified along highways and roads by directional signage embellished with a kingfisher logo. Spots on the trail which offer 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 takes you into the upper Town Creek watershed, which contains one of the largest bald eagle roosts in Alabama. The best vantage point is 2.6 miles east of the intersection of Marshall County 582 and Alabama 227. There is an overlook at that point, giving you a view of the valley below.  There are several other locations around Lake Guntersville where you might see the eagles. For more information, go by the Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge and pick up a brochure or call the park at 1-800-548-4553.

 

  • The area around Waterloo, AL, west of the Natchez Trace Parkway in northwestern Alabama offers excellent opportunities for viewing bald eagles. From Cherokee, AL, at the junction of US 72 and Natchez Trace Parkway, go north on the Natchez Trace for 11.4 miles to 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 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

  • Arrive early (7 a.m.–9 a.m.) or stay late (4 p.m. –5 p.m.), when eagles are flying 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.

 

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 www.joewheelerstatepark.com.

 

Interesting Bald Eagle Facts

  • The bald eagle has been down listed from an endangered species to a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • 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 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.

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