Eagle Watch

To assist the statewide Eagle Watch program, Audubon of Martin County organizes volunteers who monitor more than a dozen nests on private and public land. Annual orientation meetings, held at the beginning of nesting season, introduce new volunteers and bring together Eagle Watch veterans.

The Bald Eagle: A Brief History

When Europeans arrived in North America, Bald Eagle populations were high across the continent. Habitat loss and hunting decreased their numbers, but Bald Eagles were not seriously threatened with extinction until after the Second World War. The insecticide DDT saw wide use across the country in postwar years. DDT found its way into lakes and rivers, where it was absorbed by fish, a favorite prey of Bald Eagles. DDT caused these female eagles to lay eggs with thin shells, that frequently broke during incubation. By the 1960s, Bald Eagles were rarely or never seen in areas where they once thrived.

In 1967, six years before the Endangered Species Act took effect, Bald Eagles were Federally listed as "Endangered." Through the combined efforts of government agencies, scientists and private citizens, DDT was banned and efforts began to preserve and enlarge eagle nesting and roosting habitats.

The efforts were a success. In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service changed the status of Bald Eagles in the contiguous 48 states from Endangered to Threatened. In 2007, Bald Eagles were "delisted." Bald and Golden Eagles are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Protection Treaty.

While Bald Eagle populations have rebounded, they're still threatened by human development, through habitat loss and water pollution. Eagle Watch programs continue across the United States. In addition to the obvious benefit of continued observation of eagle nests (and those who might encroach on them), Eagle Watch programs are an interesting and enjoyable way for private citizens to learn more about environmental issues and meet other like-minded people.

Eagle Watch in Florida

Florida has more resident bald eagles than any other state in the country, except Alaska. With an estimate of over 2000 nesting pairs, there are more eagles in Florida now than in the entire lower 48 states in the 1970s.
 
 
This graph shows the numbers of recorded Bald Eagle nests in Florida between 1973-2006. Audubon of Florida began its Eagle Watch program in 1992. More than 270 nests across the state are monitored each year. Audubon of Florida is the focal point for Eagle Watch activities in Florida, which are coordinated by the Audubon Birds of Prey Center in Maitland. If you don't live in Martin County, contact the Center for Birds of Prey to find out about Eagle Watch programs in your county.
 
 
 
 
This graph shows the numbers of active (produced young) Bald Eagle nests in Martin County, and the numbers of fledged eaglets, for the period 1977-2009.

Several of these nests are in the DuPuis Wildlife Management Area, 22,000 acres of western Martin County that are owned and managed by the South Florida Water Management District, and which are strategically located near Lake Okeechobee, the Okeechobee Waterway, a 6,700+ acre power-plant cooling reservoir and SR 76. Each of these locations provides hunting grounds for the eagles, whose preferred food is fish, but which are also known to hunt rats, rabbits, birds and assorted road kill.
 
 
 
 
This map of Martin County shows approximate locations of known Bald Eagle nests. Unfortunately, many nests are not accessible for monitoring.
 

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