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Bald eagles continue to soar across Ohio

A bald eagle takes flight from snowy tree perch in February 2021. [Roger Starnes Sr  /  Unsplash]
A bald eagle takes flight from snowy tree perch in February, 2021.

Jan. 10 is National Save the Eagles Day. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the state's bald eagle population continues to thrive, and the national emblem of the United States can be spotted across Southwest Ohio.

"They're doing great," reports Laura Kearns, a wildlife biologist with ODNR. "Every year we've been doing an annual survey - a count of specific areas throughout the state - and that ongoing survey indicates consistent increases over time."

In 2020 - the last year the ODNR Division of Wildlife conducted a nest census of the entire state - the state logged more than 700 bald eagle nests. That was a 151% increase from the previous nest census in 2012, when 281 nests were recorded. Just four nesting pairs were recorded in 1979.

"We followed up with a nest productivity survey last year and those rates are also really good. More than one eagle per nest is produced each year and that's above what they need to sustain their population, so we're continuing to see growth of the eagle population in the state," Kearns says.

The nest productivity survey occurs annually. Kearnes explains in March researchers count all the nests within a set perimeter of certain areas. They return in May to see how many young have hatched.

As of the 2020 nest census, bald eagles were confirmed in 85 of Ohio's 88 counties, with those along Lake Erie showing the highest numbers. That's because the lake provides plenty of food and nesting habitat.

They've been spotted in all counties in Southwest Ohio. Great Parks of Hamilton County reports they've been spotted hunting "at Winton Woods, Shawnee Lookout, Miami Whitewater Forest, and Sharon Woods, among many other places around Hamilton County."

WVXU's Tana Weingartner spotted one at Winton Woods in late December.

Bald eagles were removed from the federal threatened and endangered species list in 2007 and from Ohio's list in 2012. They are, however, still protected under several federal laws.

Golden eagles are about the same size as bald eagles. They don't breed in Ohio though Kearns says they can sometimes be spotted here in the winter.

"They're relatively rare (here) and they tend to like more open, grassy areas, so sometimes in the east of the state or some of those areas where they have reclaimed strip mines, those can be good areas for sighting golden eagles."

Kearns notes people often confuse golden eagles with immature bald eagles because they have similar plumages.

"It takes the bald eagle five years to get that characteristic white head and white tail. A lot of people don't know that."

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