"It's fitting that our national symbol has also become a symbol of the great things that happen through cooperative conservation.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall.
The Bald Eagle Recovers
Oregon’s Golden Eagles in the Spotlight
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
2013 Habitat Stamp Art Contest Announced
|Martin Nugent, ODFW Threatened and Endangered Species Coordinator, shows off a bald eagle print and an American flag presented to him in recognition of US citizenship and the successful recovery of bald eagles. - ODFW photo.
Click to Enlarge Photo
the Bald Eagle recovers
This year, the bald eagle was removed from the Oregon state threatened species list. Its recovery has been called “remarkable” and “amazing,” and it is all of that. In 1963, only 487 nesting pairs of bald eagles remained in the nation. The pesticide DDT, habitat loss and illegal shooting had taken what could have been a final toll on the species across North America.
Then, in 1972, in a historic action, the federal government banned the use of DDT, and in 1978, the bald eagle was listed under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, which provided resources and habitat protections. Recovery took decades and involved agencies, organizations, politicians, landowners and thousands of individuals, but in 2007 when the species was removed from protection under the federal ESA, there were 9,789 known nesting pairs in the contiguous U.S.
In Oregon, the story is similar: “In 1978, there were only 65 breeding pairs of bald eagles in the state. By 2010, the most recent complete year of data, there were 570,” said Martin Nugent, ODFW Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive Species coordinator.
Nugent has worked on bald eagle recovery in the state since 1991 when he left Great Britain to take a position in ODFW’s nongame program. Did he think he would ever see the day the bald eagle was delisted? “Well, yes. We were always hopeful. I think there has been a mindset change; people really do care about eagles. It’s a great accomplishment, and so many have worked for this day.”
The day was March 9, 2012 when the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to delist the bald eagle from the Oregon threatened list. For his many years of service, Nugent was presented with a bald eagle print. He also received a small American flag and congratulations on his status as a new U.S. citizen.
Oregon’s Golden Eagles in the spotlight
|Golden eagle at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, Corvallis. Photo George Gentry, USFWS.
Click to Enlarge Photo
Scientists in Oregon have not consistently paid much attention to the state’s golden eagles. They seemed to be doing well enough, and the bald eagle, with its threatened species status, got much of the time and money for decades. But with the delisting of the bald eagle and the rapid development of energy resources, the time has come to find out how just well golden eagles are doing.
“Golden eagles were never listed, so we don’t have a lot of data on them,” said biologist and researcher Frank Isaacs. “We do know there are a lot of threats out there. Eagles are still being (illegally) shot. They hit power lines and are hit by cars. Lead poisoning is a concern. Land use changes, development, and recreation have been have been implicated as causes of nest abandonment, and now wind farms are being developed in their habitat. We just don’t know how much of a problem any of this is.”
Today, as project manager in the second year of a multi-year statewide golden eagle monitoring study being conducted by the Oregon Eagle Foundation, he is working to find out.
The objectives of the study are straightforward: Find out how many eagles there are in the state, where they are, and how many young are produced each year. The focus of the study is east of the Cascades as historically golden eagles are rare in the western part of the state.
In 2011, Isaacs started inventorying historic nest locations, identifying new nest locations and monitoring occupied breeding areas. “It’s a challenge,” he said. “Golden eagles build large stick nests on cliffs, in trees and on the odd power tower, and it can be hard to tell who is using a nest—we’ve seen ravens, hawks and owls in them. And if the nest is in a tree, it can be very hard to detect.”
Adding to the difficulty, there is a lot going on in eagle country. For not only are there resident and breeding birds in eastern Oregon, the area is a crossroads for migrant and nonbreeding eagles. But despite all the challenges, 2011 yielded encouraging results suggesting there were a minimum of 481 breeding pairs in Oregon. This compares with a 1991 estimate of at least 500 nesting pairs in the state.
Additionally, Isaacs and his team, including a group of volunteers, mapped 2,096 nest locations—1,520 historical and 576 new. Of those, 177 nests that were found occupied by breeding golden eagle pairs and monitored through the breeding season produced 169 eaglets. That is relatively good productivity for a large population of golden eagles. However, Isaacs cautions, the results are considered preliminary; they may be biased towards productive pairs due to the nature of the survey.
|Golden eagle nest at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 30 miles south of Burns.
Photo: Martyne Reesman, ODFW.
Click to Enlarge Photo
Results always give rise to questions and Isaacs ended the year with more than a few. Are the “new” nests really new or just previously unreported? Are the “abandoned” nests in Deschutes County the result of development and loss of wildlife habitat? Is chick productivity being affected by the low population of jackrabbits in the area?
“All in all, I’m pretty hopeful,” said Isaacs. “These birds are survivors. We have a lot to learn and we have to find out what happens when they are pressured by human development—will they retreat?”
Research is continuing in 2012, but Isaacs estimates it will take at least five years to get a good population and distribution estimate and 10 years to see a productivity trend.
Funding for 2011 was provided by Bureau of Land Management, Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Eagle Foundation, Inc., Horizon Wind Energy, Portland General Electric, Iberdrola Renewables, RES America Developments, American Wind Energy Association, E.ON Climate & Renewables NA, Firstwind, and private individuals: Gary Landers, J.M. and L.E. Bousquet, Jr. and Richard Hoyer. Many other individuals assisted in the research.
The research report, GOLDEN EAGLES (Aquila Chrysaetos) NESTING IN OREGON, 2011 (pdf), is available on the BLM website.
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
Bald and golden eagles remain protected in the U.S. under The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which was enacted in 1940. It “prohibits anyone, without a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, from ‘taking’ bald eagles, including their parts, nests, or eggs.” Learn more.
ODFW Announces 2013 Habitat Conservation Stamp Art Contest
The 2013 Habitat Conservation Stamp Art Contest is underway. Artwork must feature one of the 18 mammals identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy or one of the six marine mammals identified in the Oregon Nearshore Strategy in its respective strategy habitat.
The winning artist will receive $3000 and his or her artwork will be used to produce a 2013 collector stamp and other promotional items. Deadline for entries is 5 p.m. Aug. 31, 2012.
The 2012 collector stamps and prints are for sale now. All proceeds benefit habitat conservation.
PAST ISSUES OF THE NEWSLETTER
On the Ground newsletter archives
ABOUT THE OREGON CONSERVATION STRATEGY
The Oregon Conservation Strategy provides a blueprint and action plan for the long-term conservation of Oregon’s native fish and wildlife and their habitats through a voluntary, statewide approach to conservation. It was developed by ODFW with the help of a diverse coalition of Oregonians including scientists, conservation groups, landowners, extension services, anglers, hunters, and representatives from agriculture, forestry and rangelands.
Oregon Conservation Strategy Communications coordinator
Join Oregon Wildlife Viewing on Facebook
To subscribe or unsubscribe, please e-mail the editor. Note: The use of trade, firm or corporation names and links in this publication is for the information of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.