Saturday, July 9, 2011


HARRISBURG – America’s symbol of freedom and strength, the bald eagle, has surpassed a milestone of 200 active nests this year in the Commonwealth, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
 Eagles now nest in 50 of the state's 67 counties.
         So far this year, 203 bald eagle nests – in 50 counties – have been recorded in the state. As recently as 1983, only three Crawford County nests remained in the state.

          “The bald eagle’s comeback is nothing short of remarkable,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “Today, more Pennsylvanians have a greater opportunity of seeing a bald eagle in the wild than since before the Civil War.

           “As wildlife managers, we are proud of that accomplishment. It is the product of sound science, interstate and international cooperation and commitment to the resource. With bald eagles’ expanding their nesting territory closer and closer to the state’s urban settings, more and more Pennsylvanians are getting to appreciate the progress that has been made with this symbolic species.”

          In recent years, Philadelphia and Allegheny counties were added to the list with known bald eagle nests, demonstrating an apparent tolerance by some nesting eagles for human activity. But, then again, it doesn’t hurt that both cities are strategically located along major river systems with good fisheries.

          For 2011, counties supporting the largest numbers of known nesting pairs are: 

Crawford, 19; Pike, 19; Lancaster, 18; York 10; and Northumberland, 8.
 The bald eagle's recovery epitomizes America's resolve and spirit.
          Game Commission biologists noted that reporting on eagle nests is anything but an exact science. In 2010, the late-June nest count was 192; but that number increased to 199 by the end of the year. In 2009, the June nest count was at least 170; it increased by four by the end of the year. More dramatically, in 2008, the June estimate was 140 known nests; the final nest count was 156.

         “The agency learns of new nests with increasing regularity from the public,” said Patti Barber, Game Commission biologist. “Some of the latest reported were found by birders walking trails in remote or rugged locations.”

         This year’s complete list of counties and number of known, active bald eagle nests are: Allegheny, 1; Armstrong, 4; Berks, 5; Bradford, 2; Bucks, 4; Butler, 5; Cameron, 1; Carbon, 3; Centre, 1; Chester, 5; Clarion, 1; Clearfield, 1; Clinton, 1; Columbia, 1; Crawford, 19; Cumberland, 2; Dauphin, 3; Delaware, 1; Elk, 3; Erie, 8; Forest, 1; Franklin, 1; Huntington, 4; Jefferson, 2; Juniata, 4; Lancaster, 18; Lawrence, 2; Luzerne, 4; Lycoming, 6; McKean, 1; Mercer, 7; Mifflin, 3; Monroe, 3; Montgomery, 2; Montour, 1; Northampton, 3; Northumberland, 8; Perry, 2; Philadelphia, 2; Pike, 19; Snyder, 1; Sullivan, 1; Susquehanna, 1; Tioga, 6; Venango, 2; Warren, 5; Wayne, 7; Westmoreland, 2; Wyoming, 4; and York, 10.

          Residents aware of a bald eagle nest – which are among the largest nests of all birds – in their area should consider reporting it to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The easiest way to contact the agency through: Use the words “Eagle Nest Information” in the subject field.


 This bald eagle nest tree along the Lackawaxen River apparently took a lightning strike this spring.
          Although Pennsylvania’s bald eagle nesting population is increasing, more nests translates into more eaglets that could be involved in nest collapses caused by spring snowfall and strong winds, or that find themselves on the ground and vulnerable to terrestrial predators. Growing up is hard and juvenile missteps spurred by bad weather or human activities are challenges each eaglet must overcome to survive.

         The growing eagle population also has led to other deaths and injuries of adult bald eagles from other hazards.  Perry County Wildlife Conservation Officer Steve Hower reported that even though there has been good news regarding nesting, this has been a difficult spring for bald eagles in his district, as well as neighboring Juniata County.
          “One flew into a power line in Juniata Township, Perry County, and had to be euthanized; a second was found to be very sick sitting on the ground east of Mifflintown, Juniata County, and died shortly after it was captured; a third was found dead near Duncannon, Perry County, from an apparent respiratory infection; and a fourth was believed to have been hit by a train while feeding on carrion next to railroad tracks near Newport, Perry County,” he said. “If losing four adult eagles wasn’t bad enough, a report was received of a nest in western Juniata County with young being destroyed by severe storms as they passed through the area. An individual who has been monitoring this nest for us reported that he has not seen any activity around this nest since the storms.

         “In 23 years of serving as a WCO in Schuylkill and Perry counties, I had never had one sick, injured or dead bald eagle reported to me.  After this series of four, I hope it is another 23 years before I have another.”

         In western Pennsylvania, Mercer County WCO Donald G. Chaybin reported that the carcass of an immature bald eagle was found near a utility pole along McDougall Road in New Vernon Township.

         “Preliminary examination in the field could not determine a cause of death, so the carcass is undergoing a necropsy by Dr. Walt Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian,” WCO Chaybin said. “Accidental mortality does occur with wildlife, and at times electric lines contribute to these deaths in raptors. However, the necropsy also will determine if there are any traces of poison, toxic levels of lead, or if death was from other natural causes. We want to make sure this eagle was not a victim of an intentional act.”

          Fortunately, eagle nest successes are more numerous.  For example, Tioga County WCO Rodney Mee reported that the bald eagle pair in Canyon/Benjamin Hollow area has been nesting there since 1987.  During that time period, more than 40 eaglets have fledged successfully; there were only two years when no eaglets were produced.

          “This pair used four nest sites, and re-used some nest sites during this rotation,” WCO Mee said. “The Pine Creek gorge pair of eagles that came from the Shohola Falls hacking project and are celebrating their 25th anniversary of holding territory in the canyon, and serve as a picture of success for the program. It is thanks to the efforts of Cecil Houser, who has been volunteering his time to monitor the nests since 1984, that we are able to know more about these eagles, as he was the first to document nesting and provide information about how many young were being hatched and fledged.

         “Apparently the pair did not nest this year, perhaps because of a nest tree collapse or transition to a new nest.  But, it is certainly a remarkable longevity story, as these eagles are now more than 30 years old!”

          The Game Commission continues to further the public’s understanding of bald eagles. Last year, a comprehensive “Bald Eagle” threatened species account and “Bald Eagle Nest Etiquette” guide were added to the agency’s website ( and can be accessed by putting your cursor on “Wildlife” in the banner menu bar, then clicking on “Endangered Species.”

         New this year is the first in a series of “Eagle-watching in Pennsylvania” guides, that will help direct those interested in viewing bald eagles in the wild on where to go, how to get there, what to expect and other wildlife viewing opportunities available at each site. Currently posted are eagle-watching guides for Erie National Wildlife Refuge, Crawford County; Conneaut Marsh, Geneva Marsh, State Game Land 213, Crawford County; Raystown Lake, Huntingdon County; State Game Land 180, Shohola Lake, Pike County; and Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, Lebanon and Lancaster counties.

         Others guides planned to be posted within the next few weeks are for: Bald Eagle State Park, Centre County; Glendale Lake, Price Gallitzin State Park, Cambria County; John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Philadelphia and Delaware counties; Lower Susquehanna River, Lancaster and York counties; Moraine State Park, Butler County; Pine Creek Valley, Lycoming and Tioga counties;  Promised Land State Park, Pike County; Pymatuning Reservoir, Crawford County; Upper Delaware River in Pike, Wayne and Monroe counties.

          “There is something absolutely awe-inspiring about seeing a bald eagle soaring overhead,” Roe said. “These viewing guides are designed to connect Pennsylvanians with wildlife and to encourage a greater appreciation for one of the greatest wildlife recovery efforts.  The Game Commission is proud to have played a role in that effort, and we certainly are pleased to showcase that success by helping residents seek out locations to get closer to eagles.

 The bald eagle nest at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area fledged three eaglets this spring.
          “The eagle etiquette guide was developed to help residents understand how they can view eagles without disturbing the nests.”
          The Game Commission currently classifies the bald eagle as a threatened species in Pennsylvania. They were removed from the federal endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007, because delisting goals had been achieved.

          In 1983, the Game Commission began a seven-year bald eagle restoration program in which the agency sent employees to Saskatchewan to obtain eaglets from wilderness nests. The Richard King Mellon Foundation of Pittsburgh and the federal Endangered Species Fund provided financial assistance for this effort. In all, 88 bald eaglets from Canada were released from sites at Dauphin County’s Haldeman Island and Pike County’s Shohola Falls. The resurgence of eagles in Pennsylvania is directly related to this program, which also was carried out in other states in the Northeast.

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