Record number of bald eagles take first flight in 2018

A Sonoran desert nesting bald eagle, several of which make the Verde River their home. Arizona Game and Fish Dept. photo

A Sonoran desert nesting bald eagle, several of which make the Verde River their home. Arizona Game and Fish Dept. photo

Arizona’s bald eagle population continues to soar as the number of breeding areas expanded statewide and a record 87 young hatched during the 2018 breeding season, according the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s annual survey.

The number of hatchlings rose from the previous high of 82 in 2017, as did the number of young that actually fledged, rising to 70 birds that made the important milestone of their first flight. In Arizona, at least 102 eggs were laid, which topped the 97 laid in 2017, and a record 87 breeding areas were identified, including three new areas.

“Arizona’s bald eagle population continues to be strong,” said Kenneth Jacobson, AZGFD bald eagle management coordinator. “The fact that we continue to see an increase in breeding areas and hatchlings speaks to the resiliency of these magnificent animals. Our ongoing efforts to help conserve and protect Arizona’s bald eagles appear to be working.”

Arizona’s bald eagle populations have flourished since 1978, when 11 pairs were counted within the state and the species was listed as endangered. Today there are an estimated 69 adult breeding pairs.

Bald eagles nationwide were removed as a protected species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2007, but protections under the act were reinstated in 2008 in Arizona and remained until 2011. The department’s conservation efforts contributed to the species recovery. Nationally, the birds remain protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

The impressive growth of the population is attributed to the continued efforts of the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee – a coalition of AZGFD and 25 other government agencies, private organizations and Native American tribes – and its years of cooperative conservation efforts, including extensive monitoring by the nationally-awarded Bald Eagle Nestwatch Program.

The breeding season for bald eagles in Arizona runs from December through June, although eagle pairs at higher elevations nest later than those in the rest of the state.

Continued support from the committee, State Wildlife Grants, the Heritage Fund (Arizona Lottery ticket sales) and funding through the Pittman-Robertson Act, will help ensure that Arizona’s bald eagles continue to thrive.

For more information on bald eagles in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov (click on “wildlife”) or www.swbemc.org.

Information provided by Arizona Game and Fish Dept.

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