Eagle Nature Foundation, Ltd.
300 East Hickory Street, Apple River, IL 61001
Phone: 815-594-2306 Fax: 815-594-2305 Web Site: eaglenature.com
e-mail: email@example.com Tax Exempt No. 36-4015400
|For Immediate Release||February 17, 2015|
The Bald Eagle Communities that are Wintering along the Mississippi River Appear to be Crashing!
For over 60 years bald eagle communities have been coming south during the winter to find food and shelter near the dams and power plants along the Upper Mississippi River. They have been coming down from Upper Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada where they had nested the previous summer.
Some bald eagle communities would spend the winter along the river, feeding below the dams and other bald eagle communities would find what they needed to survive, inland away from the river. Each of these inland communities would have a feeding area of up to 250 square miles, which is the area within 8 miles of the community nighttime roost. Even some of the river communities of bald eagles would fly up to 8 miles to get to a sheltered valley, so they could be out of the wind during the cold, stormy nights.
During the height of the bald eagle recovery in the 1980's each of these communities could have 40 to 60 birds. When a bald eagle community migrated the birds that were migrating may stop for a few days to feed within another community's area, if there was plenty of food. So during migration certain dams with available food could be flooded with eagles as two to ten other communities may be present for a few days as the birds try to fill up before they move north or south. This resulted in many eagles being sighted near certain dams before the communities moved on.
During the late 80's and since, many of the bald eagle communities which wintered away from the river gradually disappeared. They either died out or moved elsewhere. First the percentage of young in the community declined, until only adults were left, and then the adults would disappear as well. This whole decline may take from 10 to 15 years until a certain community completely disappeared.
Since 2000 the communities along the river started to follow this same trend of disappearing. People who are looking at the just the total number of birds may not notice this trend. A wintering community that is declining may be supplemented by other bald eagle communities moving through going either north or south, or both, so the decline may not be obvious. But when all of the communities are declining it becomes clear that the numbers are not as great as they used to be.
This is the 55th year the Eagle Nature Foundation has conducted the Annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Count. It is basically a two hour count from Minnesota to Tennessee conducted by hundreds of volunteers during basically a two hour period. This count has been documenting the decline in the percentage of immatures through the whole Count area for the past 10 years, which follows the similar decline as occurred in the many inland communities that have disappeared.
Many cities along the Mississippi started Bald Eagle Days Celebrations to draw people's attention to the many bald eagles, which at one time, were wintering in their own areas. How many of these Celebrations during the past few years have had few, if any, bald eagles flying free for people to see? To offset this, many of them bring in live captive, and or injured, bald eagles for people to see.
It seems that this year every community of bald eagles along the river all the way down to St. Louis has declined, or disappeared entirely. Not only is the percentage of young declining, but the total numbers of bald eagles are declining. Even the nests are not being used. It appears that only about 10% of the known nest sites along the Mississippi are being active for the 2015 season.
We must find the reason for these declines, and sooner rather than later. The cause appears to be a chemical poisoning, just like DDT was in the 1960's. If it is, we need to find out what it is, and stop using whatever that chemical is. Could it be a chemical like glyphosate, the chemical in Roundup, which is killing our honeybees and Monarch Butterflies, which is working its way through our food chain? Or could it be the neonicitinoids, which have been banned in Europe?
What ever it is, it seems to be killing the birds during the winter as the total number of immatures and adults is much lower by the end of each winter than it was when they went south. Where we used to be able to see 600 to 800 bald eagles, now we only see 20 to 30. I don't know what to call this decrease, it other than a crash.
For more information contact: Terrence N. Ingram, Exec. Director, Eagle Nature Foundation, 300 East Hickory St., Apple River, IL 61001 Phone 815-594-2306