The recovery of bald eagles in Georgia shows no sign of slowing.
Surveys completed this month by the Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section documented 158 occupied nesting territories, 116 successful nests and 190 young fledged. Those preliminary counts are all up from 2011, when the totals were 142 territories, 111 successful nests and 175 eaglets.
Survey leader and Nongame Program Manager Jim Ozier has tracked the national bird’s rebound in Georgia since the late 1980s.
“They’re now in places I never would have thought they’d show up,” Ozier said.
Examples this year include an eagle nest at Berry College near Rome and a nest (pictured) on a rural Piedmont Georgia farm far from a major reservoir or river, the usual source of fish, birds and turtles that eagles prey on. Eagle populations in the state are concentrated along the coast and around reservoirs and rivers.
One new nest that proved no surprise is at Lake Lanier. Although an eagle nest had not been documented before at the 38,000-acre North Georgia lake, bald eagles have often been seen there. “Really the surprise is that it took us that long to find it,” Ozier said.
The number of young eagles observed this year fell just shy of 2010, when 194 eaglets were counted. Ozier said warmer than usual weather might have resulted in eagles nesting and raising their young earlier, with some eaglets fledging before the final round of survey flights was taken last month.
Help eagles this tax season
If you haven’t filed your 2011 state income tax return, please consider contributing $2 or more to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund. The income tax checkoff for wildlife is line 26 on Form 500 or line 10 on Form 500EZ. As little as $2 can benefit for more than 1,000 Georgia plant and animal species considered species of conservation concern.
Other ways to help Georgia wildlife.
Survey at a glance
Occupied nesting territories: 158 (preliminary).
Successful nests: 116.
Young fledged: 190.
Counties with an active nest: 53 (49 in 2011).
Lead counties: Chatham (17); McIntosh (11); Liberty and Camden (10 each); Lowndes (nine); Decatur (eight); Glynn (six).