A Higher Number of Bald Eagles Live in the United States Than Experts Previously Thought

There's been a significant increase in the country's bald eagle population during the last decade.

Bald eagles are majestic creatures that symbolize freedom and power in the United States, but their population here has been dwindling for years. Still, there's good news for the eagle population: According to a new report from the USFWS Bald Eagle Population Update, experts estimate that there are currently 316,708 bald eagles across the continental U.S., a number that has nearly quadrupled in ten years. The rising number in bald eagles reflects steady and successful conservation efforts that go as far back as 1972 when DDT, a probable human carcinogen, was banned. The use of these pesticides after World War II significantly depleted the eagle population.

bald eagle perched on top of tree
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"This is truly a historic conservation success story. The Bald Eagle has always been considered a sacred species to American Indian people [and] sacred to our nation as America's national symbol," said U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland at a press conference on March 25.

The latest report estimates that there are 71,467 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states, which is double the number of eagle nests recorded in 2009—and much higher than the all-time recorded low of 417 known eagle nests in 1963. In 1967, the Bald Eagle received protection under the predecessor to the federal Endangered Species Act. "The strong return of this treasured bird reminds us of our nation's shared resilience, and the importance of being responsible stewards of our lands and waters that bind us together," said Haaland.

Using aerial surveys, the U.S. government collaborated with the Cornell Lab to collect this most recent batch of data. Cornell Lab scientists also developed a model that uses eBird estimates of relative abundance for Bald Eagles to generate an estimate of the number of occupied nesting territories in areas all across the country. "When we look at the differences between 2009 and now, we believe that by bringing in the eBird data that certainly improved our estimate and probably accounted for more eagles than we were able to account for in 2009," said Brian Milsap, national raptor coordinator for the USFWS Division of Migratory Bird Management.

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