The Iowa Department of Natural Resources midwinter survey of bald eagles showed a drop if nearly 600 birds counted, but officials aren’t overly concerned. D-N-R spokesperson Stephanie Shepherd says warmer conditions are a likely factor. She says the warmer weather makes the eagles harder to count because they’re more spread out and not concentrated on one area of open water.
The lake of ice on Iowa waterways isn’t good news for people who like to fish on the frozen water — but Shepherd says it’s great for the eagles. She says they have more open water to work with and don’t have to stay concentrated around areas like the lock and dams on the Mississippi to find open water for fishing. Shepherd says they probably had more sightings of eagles — just not during the survey.
Shepherd says many of the eagles stick around all year, while others fly in for the winter. Shepherd says they estimate there’s 200 nesting pairs or 400 eagles that stick around the state all year, although she says that number is probably quite a big higher.
Shepherd says this year’s count is above the ten-year average of 21-hundred-80, and continues the trend of growth for eagles. She says in 1983 we had three eagle nests in the state and now we have 200. Shepherd says another indicator of the health of eagles is that 38 percent of the bald eagles counted were immature, “which indicates a really strong sort of younger class.”
The bald eagle is on the federal threatened species list, but Shepherd says that may be changing. She says officials have been trying for several years to take eagles off the list and the Iowa survey is part of the information used to make the argument that eagles can come off the list. Shepherd says it hasn’t happened yet because people are pretty cautious. The 2004 survey found the most eagles with four-thousand-384.