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Nebraska Bald Eagle Nest Numbers Flat in 2013

LINCOLN – The number of recorded active bald eagle nests in Nebraska held more or less steady from 2012 to 2013, dropping by just one nest. In 2013, 102 active nests were recorded in Nebraska, down from 103 the year before.
The flat numbers came as a surprise to those who track the state’s bald eagle population – the number of active bald eagle nests has increased each year since 1991 when the first active nest in a century was recorded in Nebraska.
Joel Jorgensen, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s nongame bird program manager, said the state had substantially increased its survey effort, which made the flat numbers more of a surprise.
“In past years, increased survey effort produced proportionally more active nests,” he said. “We have been accustomed to annual increases.”
The reason for the flat nest numbers is unclear, though it is possible that prey resources bald eagles depend on may have been reduced during the drought of 2012. Future next monitoring will determine whether the 2013 results represent a leveling off of Nebraska’s bald eagle population or just a temporary pause in long-term increases. Regardless, the number of bald eagle nests recorded in Nebraska in 2013 is 10 times greater than the recovery objective identified in the 1980s by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The recovery of the bald eagle is considered a modern conservation success story. The bald eagle was listed as a federally and state endangered species in 1978. Populations declined greatly throughout the 20th Century, primarily due to the use of DDT and other similar chemical pesticides. In 1963, there were fewer than 500 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states. After the banning of DDT and many years of intense management efforts, the bald eagle was removed from both the federal and state list of threatened and endangered species. In Nebraska, the majority of bald eagle nests are concentrated along Nebraska’s major rivers including the Missouri, Platte and Loup river systems.
Bald eagle nest monitoring is conducted and coordinated by NGPC, but also relies on cooperating agencies and trained volunteers to collect some of the data. Partners include: the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, the Nebraska Public Power District and students from Concordia University.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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