Attention all Hall County bird watchers and avian fanatics. It’s your time to hop out of the nest and soar.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division is encouraging the public to report bald eagle nests to help monitor the species’ population in the state.
On Wednesday, June 3, the agency reported that Georgia’s bald eagle nesting numbers remained strong. However, the successful nest rate dropped 30% lower than average in counties north of Atlanta, including Hall, Rabun, Dade, Bartow, Floyd and others.
Bob Sargent, leader of the 2020 survey, said substantial rainfall from January through March likely contributed to the lower nest productivity in North Georgia.
“Populations of many wildlife species exhibit fluctuations in reproductive success from year to year, sometimes wildly so, and these fluctuations are often related to bad timing of unusually cold or rainy spells,” he said in a statement. “... The overall productivity trend for bald eagles nests in Georgia continues to look healthy.”
Sargent spent time in January, March and April counting eagle nest territories via helicopter in three regions of the state: six coastal counties, a section of East Georgia and the counties north of Atlanta. His report also included results from seven nests monitored by volunteers or DNR staff.
The 2020 survey estimated 126 young eagles fledged from 82 successful nests in Georgia. A successful nest means that at least one juvenile bird grew the necessary plumage to leave the nest. This rate of 1.5 fledglings per nest matched the long-term average.
Peter Gordon, director of education at Elachee Nature Science Center and longtime birder, said if people are looking for eagle nests around Hall, he would recommend traveling north of Don Carter State Park.
Jim Ozier, wildlife biologist with Georgia Power, said large bodies of water like Lake Lanier are prime areas for eagle spotting.
He has a couple of tips, so people don’t confuse eagle nests with osprey nests. While osprey like to raise their young out in the open on dead trees or atop utility poles, he said eagles prefer a more sheltered home like evergreen trees. In North Georgia, he said they typically settle on pine trees.
“I’ve never seen one in an exposed structure,” Ozier said. “They’re usually near a significant amount of water, reservoir or major river. There’s a balance of being next to the water and high up.”
Although eagles and osprey are both large birds of prey, Gordon said the two have distinctive appearances. Ospreys, which are smaller, have white on their chests; whereas, bald eagles only have white plumage on their heads and tails.
“Osprey have incredibly long wings, but when you see them compared to an eagle, it’s a significant difference,” Gordon said. “They’re strong, powerful pumpers of their wings. I recommend getting a pair of binoculars.”