The Eagle Nature Foundation (ENF) seeks volunteers to help with its 63rd Annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Count to be conducted Jan. 28-29, 2023.

This annual bald eagle count is being conducted throughout the Midwest from northern Minnesota to Louisiana. To eliminate duplication the count is a three-hour count on Saturday, with Sunday being used only if weather, or health, does not allow a person or organization to count the bald eagles in their own locality on the official count day, a news release says.

USA, Alaska, Tongass National Forest, Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in flight above Holkham Bay

At least 90% of the eagles will be counted before 11 a.m. Jan. 28. Each year, some counters start the day by counting the bald eagles that may be seen leaving their nighttime roosts, while it is still so dark that the birds are only silhouettes flying overhead. Some conservation organizations use teams to count the bald eagles as a project for their club. Counters have used cars, boats and airplanes to count the bald eagles during past counts.

This annual count was started and coordinated for 22 years by the late Elton Fawks from Moline. Terrence Ingram, president of ENF, from Apple River, has been the coordinator of the count for the past 42 years.

“This count has been the most important bald eagle count in the nation for many, many years,” Ingram says. “It was the results of this count in the early 1960’s that truly documented the decline of the bald eagle in the nation. Now this count is the only accurate record of how our eagles are reproducing in the Midwest.”

Bald Eagle

“Since the USFW removed the bald eagle from the Endangered Species List in 2007, there has been no funding for agencies to be involved in monitoring the bald eagle’s reproduction,” Ingram said. “Most all of their reproduction records are just estimates, or extrapolations, of how many young have been raised. This count helps document what percentage of those young birds have survived.”

The last few years have documented a low number of immature birds being recorded during this count. This number is actually lower than the same low number that the count had recorded in the early 1960s, Ingram says.

The cause for this low number of documented immature birds on this count is unknown and any suggestions about a cause have been purely speculative, Ingram says. It could be that the immature birds are wintering somewhere else, or something could actually be affecting their survival: such as starvation; poisoning by chemicals, such as Roundup or neonicotinoids, or a disease, such as West Nile Virus. Or many of the young eagles may be getting killed by vehicle collisions or wind turbines.

Bald Eagle at Credit Island

Organizations and volunteers for this count are needed all across the Midwest. ENF would like to document the bald eagles that may be found all along the Mississippi River, from Minnesota to Louisiana, as well as along the Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Rock, Pecatonica, Des Moines, Iowa, Skunk, Cedar, Turkey, Maquoketa and Wisconsin Rivers, and many historic inland wintering areas, which the bald eagle still uses.

Anyone interested in helping with this research to document the changing bald eagle population by counting the bald eagles in their own area on Jan. 28 or 29, should contact Ingram at ENF, 300 East Hickory St., Apple River, IL 61001 or phone 815-594-2306 to get the necessary count forms and to receive an area assignment. Participants must contact Ingram and getting your area assigned must be done in advance of the count date.