Written by Bryan Watts
June 10, 2008
The recovery of bald eagles in the Chesapeake Bay and across North America is one of the greatest conservation success stories of our time. One tool that has played a significant role in this recovery has been the annual survey of the breeding population. The survey has allowed us to track population status and productivity.
Nest distribution information is used daily by regulatory agencies. It has been the foundation of all management strategies. In partnership with the state of Virginia, CCB biologists have conducted the survey since 1977 following a tradition of surveys that stretch back to 1957. Each year CCB biologists fly a nest survey in February and March to map eagle nests and to determine their activity status. This survey is followed in late April and May by a productivity survey where chicks are counted in each nest.
The survey covers all tributaries of the lower Chesapeake, as well as, other prominent bodies of water and requires more than 100 hours of flying flight time in a high-wing Cessna. During the 2008 breeding season, more than 750 nest structures were monitored and 584 occupied territories were confirmed that produced 864 chicks. This is the highest chick production recorded during the survey’s 52-year history. The population continues to have tremendous momentum. Of 8,364 chicks documented in the past 32 years, 10.3% were produced in 2008 and 65% were produced since 2000.