Bald eagle populations are healthy enough in Georgia that the state is scaling back its surveys of nesting birds.
Beginning this year, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will only survey eagle populations in half of the state each year after several years of encouraging counts of successful eagle nests spotted during helicopter surveys of the state.
More than 200 nests have been documented throughout Georgia for the past three years, according to DNR. A recent survey found almost 110 nesting territories in six counties on the Georgia coast, according to an announcement from the state on Tuesday, May 29.
Only three decades ago, Georgia set a goal to have 20 eagle nests in the state. The state recorded a record 218 nests in 2017.
Georgia DNR credited the nationwide ban on DDT, habitat improvements, Endangered Species Act protection, public interest, release programs and forest regrowth for the restoration of local predator populations.
DNR performs surveys in January, March and April. The earliest flights are to find active nests, and the subsequent flights are to discover the success of those nests and their inhabitants.
Between Lake Lanier, Savannah and Atlanta, DNR found 28 nesting areas and 32 young eagles in the surveys conducted earlier this year.
“There aren’t many things (in the wild) that can really get them, so the fact that they were in trouble points to human actions,” said Adam Betuel, director of conservation of the Atlanta Audubon Society, a nonprofit dedicated to wildlife preservation. “I think the fact that they’re doing well shows we can learn from and reverse our mistakes.”
Bald eagles remain a threatened species in Georgia, but the population of predators in the state has grown to the point that “cutting the survey effort by 50 percent would not compromise our ability to identify and address a decline in productivity of our nesting eagles, should it occur,” said Bob Sargent, nongame conservation section program manager for Georgia DNR.
DNR has received calls about at least one nesting pair of eagles along Lake Lanier.
While the bird dropped from the Endangered Species Act in 2007, bald eagles remain a protected species in Georgia and are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, according to DNR.
Do you think you’ve seen a bald eagle nest? Check with the state at georgiawildlife.com/bald-eagle. You can also call 478 994-1438 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ospreys are popular residents of Lake Lanier, and DNR has a page online explaining the differences between the two species and their nests.
Beginning next year, DNR will fly half the state each year to track eagle nests.