The Eagle Nature Foundation (ENF) seeks volunteers to help with its 62nd Annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Count to be conducted Jan. 29-30.
The annual count is being conducted throughout the Midwest from Northern Minnesota to Louisiana, a news release says. To eliminate duplication the count is a three-hour count on Saturday, with Sunday 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.
At least 90% of the eagles will be counted before 11 a.m. Jan. 29, the release says.
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 clubs. 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 40 years.
“This count has been the most important bald eagle count in the nation for many, many years,” Ingram said in the release. “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.”
“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 eagles being recorded during this count. This number is lower than the same low number that the count had recorded in the early 1960’s.
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, the release says. It could be that the immature eagles are wintering somewhere else, or something could be affecting their survival such as starvation, poisoning by chemicals, or a disease, such as West Nile Virus. Or many of the young may be killed by vehicle collisions or wind turbines, the release says.
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, as well as many of the historic inland wintering areas, which the bald eagles still use.
Anyone interested in helping should contact Ingram at ENF, 300 East Hickory Street, Apple River, IL 61001 or call 815-594-2306 to get the necessary count forms and to receive an area assignment. Contact should be made before Jan. 29, the release says.