U.S. Bald Eagle Numbers Are Way Up, But What About Illinois?
Obviously, quite a few things have changed in America since 1963. One of the more notable changes has been the population of bald eagles, which, after 58 years, has risen from 417 nesting pairs to an astounding 71,400, according to a new report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
And that's just in the lower 48 states. Alaska leads the way in bald eagle population for our country as a whole, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimating that there are 30,000 bald eagles calling Alaska their home.
WildlifeInformer.com says that America's population of bald eagles dropped to about 800 birds by the early 1960s, so you can see why lot of media outlets are buzzing this morning over the news of the great bald eagle comeback in the United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report says that while nesting pairs of bald eagles has risen to 71,400 birds, there are now over 316,700 bald eagles in the 48 contiguous states. Apparently, some of these guys prefer to remain single.
As someone who likes to get a peek behind the curtain on how things are done, I was curious as to how you would go about counting the population of eagles in a country as big as ours. It seems that the key to getting it done is the use of technology,
such as employing drones.
(Correction: I just got a note from Vanessa Kaufman, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Division of Public Affairs, and she points out that the surveys were drone-free:
"The aerial survey component of the bald eagle survey was conducted entirely from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fixed-wing aircraft and, in some parts of the Pacific Northwest, from contracted helicopters. Drones were not used in any part of the 2018-2019 survey.")
Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and observers conducted aerial surveys over a two-year period in 2018 and 2019. The agency also worked with the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology to acquire information on areas that were not practical to fly over as part of aerial surveys.
Here in our state of Illinois, the bald eagles seem to thriving as well as any of their out-of-state brethren. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) calculates that there are over 3,100 bald eagles in Illinois, and that there are "more wintering American bald eagles, in fact, than in any other state outside Alaska."
The really cool thing for those of us that live in the Rockford area is that you don't have to go far to see them. Just last week, my son and I took the beautiful drive down Route 2 to Oregon. We saw several of them along the Bypass not far from the Chicago-Rockford International Airport (RFD), and along the bluffs that bracket the Rock River as you head south.