Bald eagle conservation successes make ‘nesting season’ a spectacle
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Bald eagle conservationists in Nebraska can take in what they’ve worked decades to accomplish, as bald eagle numbers continue to soar from where they were decades ago. Now the effort is more focused on keeping the public aware of their presence.
Over the past few weeks, its been an influx of the avian variety with bald eagles, likely as many as a few thousand being spotted across Nebraska.
“This is a really exciting time for bald eagles in the state,” said Joel Jorgensen, the Nongame Bird Program Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
That population is a mix of juveniles who are brown and the older eagles with distinct white heads. Many are resident eagles who call Nebraska home, and others are migratory ones passing through, with many stopping at Branched Oak Lake just outside Lincoln.
“We have our local resident bald eagles nesting right now,” Jorgensen said. “They’ve just put down their eggs.”
For being the national bird, bald eagle numbers haven’t always been this high. The federal government declared them endangered in 1978, and around the same decade in Nebraska, a population recovery goal was set. The goal was to get just 10 nesting pairs in the state.
In 1990, the state found itself with none. Today, experts estimate Nebraska has anywhere from 200 to 300 nesting pairs.
“For a bird that has a relatively slow rate of reproduction to go from zero to 200 to 300 is really, really remarkable,” Jorgensen said.
By 2007, bald eagles were removed from the U.S. Endangered List. Jorgensen said it’s not just how many eagles call the state home that’s surprising, but where they’re nesting too.
“Really kind of close to cities, close to human habitation,” Jorgensen said.
A location that Jorgensen said you wouldn’t have seen a nest even a few decades ago is right on the east edge of Lincoln, off a busy road and a few feet away from noisy trains and trucks. Jorgensen said the eagles who have nested there have adapted well to the area and aren’t as easily spooked or bothered as those you might see at Branched Oak or elsewhere.
Game and Parks said would-be eagle spotters still have about a week left to view migratory eagles at Branched Oak Lake.
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