Bald eagles in Arizona continue to flourish

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August 12th, 2009
With the last bald eagle nestling finally out of the nest, the numbers are in for the 2009 breeding season, and the species continues to flourish in the state under the careful watch of the Arizona Game and Fish Department and a coalition of 22 other partners.

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This year, two new records were set: A record 77 eggs were laid, an increase of six over last year, with a record 67 of those eggs hatching successfully. In addition, the state celebrated the second-best year on record for the number of fledglings that took to Arizona’s skies in 2009. Forty-seven eaglets reach the critical point of taking their first flight, an important milestone for a young bird’s chances of survival.

Bald eagle numbers over the past 30 years have grown more than 400 percent in the state.

“Arizona’s intensive management of the species is paying off,” said Kenneth Jacobson, Arizona Game and Fish Department bald eagle management coordinator. “The period between the bird hatching and taking its first flight is a critical time. The bald eagle nestwatch program and regular monitoring played a significant role in helping these nestlings develop from eggs into independent fledglings.”

The breeding season for bald eagles in Arizona typically runs from December through June, although a few bald eagle pairs at higher elevations nest later than those in the rest of the state. The eaglet at Woods Canyon Lake was the last to fledge. The closure area enacted to help protect that nest will be lifted on Aug. 17.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department, a leading partner in recovery efforts for the species, attributes the success to cooperative on-the-ground management, including monitoring and survey flights; recreational area closures during the breeding season; banding and visual identification; contaminants analysis and a nestwatch program to protect breeding activities. Through the Southwest Bald Eagle Management Committee (SWBEMC), a broad coalition of 23 government agencies, private organizations and Native American tribes, a plan is in place to help ensure the continued success of the bald eagle population in Arizona.

Management of the bald eagle falls under the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s program to recover species that are threatened, declining or that have been extirpated from the state.

Through its partnerships with other public agencies, non-profit organizations and the science community, the department’s wildlife recovery program aims to prevent species from becoming endangered and conserve them in a more cost-effective manner. State-level involvement provides closer oversight of wildlife species on a day-to-day basis. Specific emphasis is placed on identifying and managing the wildlife and habitat of greatest conservation need, or those species that are no longer abundant and facing increasing threats from habitat degradation, disease, introduction of non-native species and climate change.

Adaptive management of these species helps ensure their continued presence in Arizona and protects the delicate balance of the ecosystem for future generations.

For more information on bald eagles in Arizona, visit www.swbemc.org.

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