Nestwatchers help bald eagle population grow in Arizona

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February 26th, 2009

While you are lying in your bed at night, 20 people are sleeping in tents so they can wake up at the crack of dawn to help protect our state’s bald eagles.

“For more than 30 years, the nestwatch program has been an integral component of Arizona’s bald eagle management plan,” says Kenneth Jacobson, head of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Bald Eagle Management Program. “Nestwatchers have helped save the lives of over 60 eagle nestlings since the program began in 1978. Their contributions certainly have helped Arizona’s bald eagle population grow.”

This year’s nestwatchers began their four-month tour of duty on Feb. 6. They will watch 11 breeding areas, most along the Salt and Verde rivers in national forests, on Native American lands, and in Maricopa County parks. The contractors will observe from dawn to dusk, collecting data about the eagles’ behavior, educating the public, and notifying rescuers of any life-threatening situations for the birds.

The nestwatch program began as a weekend volunteer effort by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and Maricopa Audubon to help ensure the continued success of bald eagle breeding. Now 23 agencies are involved with the program to monitor bald eagle breeding areas that are under heavy pressure from human recreational activities.

A recent statewide survey identified four new breeding areas, bringing the total number of breeding sites in Arizona to 59. In addition, at least 11 eggs have already hatched, 36 pairs of bald eagles have laid eggs for the year, and a total of 42 breeding areas are occupied by breeding adults. By the end of the breeding season, biologists expect nearly 50 pairs of bald eagles to breed in Arizona this year.

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