SPRINGFIELD – A record-setting number of American bald eagles was reported during the annual Illinois Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey coordinated by the Illinois Audubon Society. Volunteers tallied 5,975 birds between the dates of Jan. 1 and Jan. 15.
Extremely cold temperatures in northern parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin caused a surge in the numbers of over-wintering birds along the Illinois waterways. Survey routes are located on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers with additional routes on the Ohio and Wabash rivers, Crab Orchard Lake, Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area and Carlyle Lake.
According to Tom Clay, the society’s executive director, “Our 2014 survey surpassed 2013 (2,325 total) and topped the highest recorded count (since 1992) of 4,292 reported in 2008.”
The largest populations of the eagles spotted were counted along the Mississippi River (93.6 percent of the overall total), followed by 4.4 percent observed on the Illinois River and 2 percent sighted on the remaining routes. The number of adults versus immature eagles reported on these surveys, an important indicator of recovery and survival, remains at 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively.
Nationally, this effort is administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The goal of the survey is to maintain the long-term, national coordination of the surveys collected, analysis of that data, and reporting of the results. Locally, survey data collected provides information on eagle trends, distribution and habitat and helps create public interest in bald eagles and their conservation.
Information regarding the 2014 survey and previous years’ data can be obtained by calling the Illinois Audubon Society at 217-544-2473.
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. The Illinois Audubon Society is an independent, member supported, not-for-profit, statewide organization. Founded in 1897, the society is Illinois’ oldest private conservation organization with over 2,300 members, 20 chapters and 17 affiliate groups. The Illinois Audubon Society has protected over 3,300 acres by investing more than $6.6 million to protect land and water throughout Illinois.