Southern bald eagle thrives in Florida

January 27, 2009

Southern Bald Eagle. Photo courtesy FWC.
Southern Bald Eagle. Photo courtesy FWC.

Conservation efforts has led to the species recovery

The bald eagle is a success story in the United States, particularly here in

With more than 2,000 active nests, and five documented in Walton County and surrounding area, the eagles have had a 300 percent increase in population since monitoring began in 1973.

As a result, the bald eagle was removed from the state threatened species list by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in April 2008. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) removed the bald eagle from the federal endangered and threatened list in 2007.

Eagle nests in Walton County.

Current conservation efforts
Although the bald eagle is no longer protected under the Endangered Species Act, it is still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  The USFWS (2007b) has redefined some of the terminology included in the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits the disturbance or take of bald eagles without a permit, including their nests or eggs.  The federal legislation defines “take” to mean to “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb” an eagle.  The new federal definition of “disturb” is to “agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to the degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available, 1) injury to an eagle, 2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or 3) nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior” (USFWS 2007b).  The state definition of “take” is “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct”.  The FWC Bald Eagle Management Plan adopts the federal definition of “disturb” in 50 C.F.R. § 22.3 and Florida’s definition of “take” in Rule 68A-1.004, F.A.C.

About the Southern Bald Eagle

Breeding Behavior
• Bald eagles are highly social outside of the nesting season, but are extremely territorial when nesting.
• Bald eagles in Florida begin building a nest or start gathering materials for a nest in late September or early October.
• Bald eagles in Florida strongly prefer living native pines to all other substrates for nesting; 75 percent of all eagle nests surveyed during 2006 were built in living native pines.
• Nearly all bald eagle nests in Florida are built within 1.8 miles of water
• Most clutches of eggs in Florida are laid between December and early January.

Most of Florida’s breeding bald eagles, especially those nesting in the extreme southern peninsula, remain in the state year-round, but most subadults, or birds not quite fully grown, and non-breeding adults migrate out of Florida.

Bald eagles are opportunistic foragers, feeding or scavenging on a wide variety of prey.  Primary prey of eagles in Florida includes various fish and waterfowl species.

• The record lifespan for a bald eagle in the wild is 28 years.

• Throughout their range, bald eagles use forested habitats for nesting and roosting, and expanses of shallow fresh or salt water for foraging.  Nesting habitat generally consists of densely forested areas of mature trees that are isolated from human disturbance.

Information provided by FWC.
The FWC has a section on their website where you can find information about the new bald eagle management plan, permitting requirements, eagle biology, current research, and bald eagle nest locations. Click here

Find an interactive coloring page for children at:

    1. On Jan-24-2010, my girlfriend was at the Defuniak lake yard and saw a Bald Eagle in a tree and took a picture of it!We are thinking of sending the pic to the Defuniak Herald.

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