OAK HARBOR, Ohio – Record numbers of bald eagles were observed for the second year in a row during the annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey, conducted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.
A preliminary total of 352 bald eagles were observed, including 271 mature bald eagles and 81 immature eagles (birds less than 5 years old).
2003 vs. 2002. Last year, 304 bald eagles were identified during the mid-winter survey, a group composed of 167 mature and 137 immature birds. Last spring, 105 eaglets fledged from a record 88 nests.
“We are looking forward to reaching a milestone of having 100 pairs of nesting bald eagles in Ohio,” said Steven A. Gray, chief of the ODNR Division of Wildlife. “If not this summer, we should reach that goal in the next few years.”
Bald eagles were observed in 57 of Ohio’s 88 counties during this year’s two-week survey. Counties along the western shore of Lake Erie continue to report the largest number of eagles.
Sandusky County had the greatest number of sightings with 67 birds.
State biologists believe increased nesting populations and the excellent reproduction success in the state, Canada, and the northern Great Lake states have contributed to the mid-winter count increase.
Top counties. Counties with the highest counts of bald eagles were: Sandusky (67), Ottawa (39), Erie (31), Lucas (15), and Knox (13).
Although generally concentrated along western Lake Erie, bald eagles were sighted statewide wintering around the mouth of the Sandusky River, as well as the Kokosing, Scioto, and Muskingum rivers.
Clermont, Scioto, and Gallia counties along the Ohio River were the southern-most locations of eagle sightings.
State wildlife officials conduct the survey each January, which is coordinated nationally by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Golden eagles. The survey documents trends in wintering populations of eagles in the lower 48 states, including both the bald and golden eagles.
Although rarely seen in Ohio, one mature and two immature golden eagles were spotted this year.
The number of sightings is expected to increase as the golden eagle population in the eastern Arctic and from the state of Tennessee’s reintroduction efforts expands.
The annual eagle assessment includes a standardized aerial survey and observations from the ground by field personnel, a team of volunteers, and observations reported by the general public.
Contributions. The state’s bald eagle management program is funded by contributions to the state income tax check-off program for Wildlife Diversity and Endangered Species and by the sale of Ohio conservation license plates that include the bald eagle and cardinal plates.
Contributions can be made by checking the appropriate line on the Ohio 2003 state income tax form.
The license plates can be purchased through a deputy registrar license outlet or by calling the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles toll-free at 1-888-PLATES3.
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