A Volunteer Citizen Science Program
Bald Eagles, one of the largest birds in North America, are native only to our continent and are a successful example that protection under the Endangered Species Act works!
With over 1,400 nesting pairs, Florida has one of the largest populations of Bald Eagles in the United States, excluding Alaska. The nesting season extends from October 1 through May 15, with individual pairs often returning to the same nesting territory year after year.
Threats to Bald Eagles include collisions with cars and power lines, gunshot wounds, and poisonings. Loss of nesting and foraging habitat through development and mitigation also seriously jeopardizes nesting success for eagles in Florida. These birds are strongly territorial and are known to engage in battles over nesting habitats, causing injury and even death. Although these disputes are uncommon elsewhere, the state of Florida has witnessed an increase in eagle mortality and injury due to territorial fights during the last decade.
Florida’s rapidly changing environment currently finds Bald Eagles nesting successfully in urban areas. This increased exposure to human activity and its resulting pressure on the eagle population prompted the Audubon EagleWatch Program.
Audubon EagleWatch seeks information about Bald Eagles, active nest locations and possible disturbances or threats to nesting activities. The program is designed to educate volunteer participants in general eagle nesting biology, applicable laws, the identification of nest threats, monitoring techniques and the verification of previously unrecorded active eagle nests.
This data is compiled and used to assist the state’s Mid-winter Annual Bald Eagle Nesting Survey by documenting both urban and rural eagle nesting activity, successes and failures. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service also utilize EagleWatch data to enhance their conservation and law enforcement efforts.
If you are interested in participating in this Citizen Science program, contact Matt Smith via email for more information.
Since urban eagle nesting activity in Florida has increased dramatically in the last decades, the Audubon EagleWatch Program seeks to:
- Compile data for publication to document urban nesting activity
- Emphasize monitoring of urban pairs to record long-term nesting trends
- Identify potential threats to nesting success since most threats are related directly or indirectly to human activity
- Expand Audubon EagleWatch on a statewide basis while generating increased public awareness of our national symbol. This will include programs designed to educate the citizens of Florida in ways to help ensure the continued recovery of the bald eagle.
What laws protect Bald Eagles today?
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) – specifically defines illegal acts including “the take of any Bald Eagle…alive or dead, or any part, nest or egg thereof.” ‘Take’ also includes “to pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill capture, trap, collect, molest, or disturb.” Fines can be $5,000 and/or two years of imprisonment.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) – protects migratory species with fines for violations ranging up to $2, 000 and/or two years of imprisonment.
What does Audubon EagleWatch accomplish?
The Audubon EagleWatch Program started in 1992 in the Central Florida region, with only 22 volunteers. Today the program is statewide, reaching more communities each year and continuing to heighten awareness of Bald Eagle nesting activities throughout the state. Recent accomplishments include:
- Monitoring 250+ nests, more than 15% of the state’s population
- Utilizing over 250 informed volunteers to monitor active nest sites
- Locating and verifying an average of 6 new nests per year
- Saving nests from destruction by illegal development
- Promptly rescuing fallen eaglets after storms
For more information on EagleWatch, visit the Center for Birds of Prey website at http://fl.audubon.org/audubon-center-birds-prey