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Bald Eagles break nest record in 2015

As reported in a recent NGPC press release, the number of active Bald Eagle nests in Nebraska broke another record in 2015.  Bald Eagle nest monitoring is conducted annually by the Nongame Bird Program, but we rely on a number of partners and cooperators (see the full list at the bottom of this post) who provide information about the status of each nest.  It is very much a team effort and we are grateful for everyone’s contribution.   The big takeaway from our newly-released 2015 report is the number of active Bald Eagle nests observed in 2015 was another record tally.  In 2014, the total of 111 active nests was unprecedented.  In 2015, we reached 118 active nests even though we were unable to survey several nests in one region of the state (Missouri River of northeast Nebraska) which traditionally has several nests.  Using data from past years from this region and acknowledging that we miss a few nests each year, it is safe to assume the number of active Bald Eagle nests in the state in 2015 was greater than 125.  Nebraska’s first active and successful modern Bald Eagle nest was observed in 1991.  Thus, we’ve come a long ways in a short time.  The graphic below shows the data and also the trend in nest numbers using a statistical technique known locally weighted scatterplot smoothing (LOESS).  Blue points are the number of nests surveyed, the red points are the number of active nests.

Bald Eagle nest numbers

The spatial distribution of active Bald Eagle nests is not uniform across the state.  Nest density is highest in northeast Nebraska along the Platte, Loup and Elkhorn Rivers and their tributaries.  Southern Nebraska has the fewest nests and there were no active nests in a large chunk of southwest Nebraska in 2015.

Bald Eagle nests

Bald Eagles are doing very well in Nebraska and across country these days.  Every year after we tally the numbers we wonder when the number of active Bald Eagle nests in our state will level off and the increases will stop.   It does not seem we are getting close to that point.   Thus, expect more records in future years as long as our survey efforts can keep pace.  If you are interested in additional detail regarding the 2015 nesting season, please see our 2015 Nebraska Bald Eagle Nesting Report.

Bald Eagle nest

Good birding!

Nongame Bird Program

We thank all the entities that provided support to individuals on staff to conduct surveys for the 2015 survey.  In particular, we thank the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; staff from both entities monitored and provided data for numerous nests.  We also thank the Nebraska Department of Roads, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Wildlife Division, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Fisheries Division,  Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Law Enforcement Division, Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services–Nebraska Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nebraska Army National Guard, Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District and the Nebraska Public Power District.

We thank the following individuals that provided information during the 2015 breeding season: Bob Allpress, Kenna Anderson, Dave Baasch, Scott Baker, Dina Barta, Keith Blake, Mary Bomberger Brown, Sam Cowan, Kenny Dinan, Amy Dirks, Boni Edwards, Gail Ferris, Stan Ferris, Jason Fisher, Marlin French, Chris Funk, Scott Gonsior, Ben Goodwin, Joe Gubanyi, Ken Haar, Bob Harms, Alice Heckman, Paula Hoppe, Thad Huenemann, Michele Fuhrer Hurt, Mark Hutchings, Carole Johnson, Rich Junker, Josh Kounovsky, Will Kucera, Jeanine Lackey, Susie Ledford, Mark Lindvall, Chris Long, Nick Lyman, Kent Millington, Wayne Mollhoff, Melvin Nenneman, Joe Niv, Damon Ott, Jan Ott, Terry Perks, Ronald Raff, Wendy Rhine, Ben Rutten,  Rick Schmid, Kirk Schroeder, Clayton Stalling, Elaine Tipton, Robin Vodehnal, Larry Vrtiska, TJ Walker, Kirby Zicafoose, and Dave Zorn.

Funding for 2015 Bald Eagle nest monitoring was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sportfish and Wildlife Restoration Program─Wildlife Surveys and Inventories (Project W-15-R), State Wildlife Grant Program, and the Nebraska Wildlife Conservation Fund.      

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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