Here's facts to back up the impression we were seeing more bald eagles this winter. On Tuesday, the Illinois Audubon Society reported the 2008 Midwinter Bald Eagle Count of 4,292 was 2,372 more than in 2007.
What the nationwide counts show will be more statistically significant. Because eagle counts are so weather dependent (and believe it or not the surveys were done in a relatively warm stretch) the state counts can vary widely from year to year, such as from 2007 to 2008.
In Illinois, the ground surveys were conducted in January with the Mississippi River basin yielding a count 3,793, the Illinois River basin 171 and the Ohio River, Crab Orchard, Carlyle and Horseshoe lakes 328.
Here is the complete release from the Illinois Audubon Society.
``2008 Midwinter Bald Eagle Count Surges
SPRINGFIELD, IL – If the Midwinter Bald Eagle surveyors were disappointed with the low number of bald eagles they saw during the 2007 survey, they were ecstatic with this year’s results. The 2008 count was 4292 bald eagles, 2372 more than were counted last year.
Ground surveys were conducted January 2-16 with target dates of January 11 and 12 within the Illinois and Mississippi River watersheds. The Illinois River basin produced 171 and the Mississippi River basin yielded 3793. Other areas surveyed, including the Ohio River, Crab Orchard, Carlyle and Horseshoe Lakes contained 328.
The bald eagle survey categorizes eagles as adults, immature, and of undetermined age. This year 2434 adults, 1711 immature eagles, and 147 of undetermined age were counted. Of the total number, 40% were immature birds, indicating progress in the recovery of the bald eagle.
Each year surveyors leave their warm homes or offices to brave the cold and snow to count bald eagles along standard survey routes and survey routes of 2 to 120 miles in length. Although official assessments of bald eagle recovery are based on summer nesting populations, the midwinter count gives an idea of the trend in numbers. Since the number of birds in Illinois depends on local weather conditions at the time of the count, nationwide numbers rather than those of just one state are compared from year to year. This year’s temperatures were milder than last year with less ice on the rivers.
Illinois Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey is coordinated by the Illinois Audubon Society. The United States Army Corps of Engineers coordinates the national survey. Illinois surveyors include employees of state and federal wildlife agencies, college instructors, students, members of the Illinois Audubon Society, and other interested individuals.
The mission of the Illinois Audubon Society is to promote the perpetuation and appreciation of native plants and animals and the habitats that support them. Independent from National Audubon, the Illinois Audubon Society is a privately supported, not-for-profit, statewide organization. It was founded in 1897 and is Illinois’ oldest private conservation organization with over 2300 members, 19 chapters and 13 affiliate groups. IAS currently owns and manages 12 wildlife sanctuaries and has saved over 2600 acres which are now being protected and managed for habitat and biodiversity throughout Illinois.''