In 1983, there were only three bald eagle nests in the entire state of Pennsylvania, but an assessment by the state’s the Game Commission shows that number has surpassed a milestone of 200 active nests this year.
Although the bald eagle is still considered a threatened species in many parts of the country, comeback stories like the one in Pennsylvania prove that it’s now more likely than ever that you’ll see this American icon in the wild.
Bald eagles build a larger nest than any other bird in North America, and they are one of the few species in the animal kingdom to mate for life. Both sexes will sit on the nest and protect the eggs or young, exchanging places while the other forages for food.
Bald eagles are very picky about where they build their nests, and if there is too much human activity around, they’re likely to keep moving until they find a better spot. With urban development now spilling out into what was once quiet countryside, the preferred habitat of the eagle is getting harder to come by.
Game Commission director Carl Roe says the eagle’s remarkable recovery in Pennsylvania is the product of sound science, interstate and international cooperation and commitment to the resource. With bald eagles’ expanding their nesting territory closer and closer to the state’s urban settings, more and more Pennsylvanians are getting to appreciate the progress that has been made with this symbolic species.
Although Pennsylvania’s bald eagle nesting population is increasing, more nests translates into more eaglets that could be involved in nest collapses caused by spring snowfall and strong winds, or that find themselves on the ground and vulnerable to terrestrial predators. Growing up is hard and juvenile missteps spurred by bad weather or human activities are challenges each eaglet must overcome to survive.
Fortunately, eagle nest successes are more numerous than failures. For example, Tioga County WCO Rodney Mee reported that the bald eagle pair in Canyon/Benjamin Hollow area has been nesting there since 1987. During that time period, more than 40 eaglets have fledged successfully; there were only two years when no eaglets were produced.
“The agency learns of new nests with increasing regularity from the public,” said Patti Barber, Game Commission biologist. “Some of the latest reported were found by birders walking trails in remote or rugged locations.”
Last year, the Game Commission published a comprehensive guide to “Bald Eagle Nest Etiquette” (pdf) guide so that the public could learn how to best observe eagles and their nests without disturbing the birds.
Image Credit: Flickr – USFWS Northeast