Louisiana’s bald eagle population continues to flourish, according to the latest bald eagle nest survey conducted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). The survey, done in southeast Louisiana where the majority of bald eagles in the state reside, showed 264 active nests.
“The productivity and nesting success continues to be good in Louisiana for the bald eagle,’’ said Michael Seymour, LDWF’s non-game ornithologist. “The most recent survey (in 2017-18) for eagles show the number of chicks to be very high. The productivity was close to 100 percent in both the maximum and minimum values of the survey.’’
LDWF conducted a statewide survey in 2014-15 and surveyed 647 nests, including 355 that were considered active.
“You’d say the current survey is almost 100 nests fewer less than the last time we flew (in 2014-15),’’ Seymour said. “But the 2017-18 survey is a much reduced land area. We surveyed 647 total nests back in 2014-15 in the statewide survey. This time we surveyed 599 nests in a much smaller survey area.
“To get the most bang for our buck, we flew the area where they’ve concentrated. We basically surveyed around the New Orleans metro area through west of Morgan City. Terrebonne and St. Mary parishes have some of the highest densities of nests. Lake Palourde and Lake Verret have a lot of nests concentrated in small areas.’’
Once a rare sight, spotting bald eagles in Louisiana has become commonplace.
In the early 1970s, there were only five to seven active nests recorded in the state. The population was devastated by the now-banned pesticide DDT. The bald eagle was removed from federal listing under the Endangered Species Act in August of 2007 though it remains federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
The species typically begins nesting in the southern U.S. in September. Bald eagle pairs will mate for life although they will re-pair if one dies.
In November and December, they’ll lay eggs, usually two or three. Typically, the chicks have hatched by February.
“Once those chicks reach about 10 weeks of age, they’re just about fully grown and there aren’t many predators that would attempt to take them,’’ Seymour said. “For us, once a bird reaches about 10 weeks we consider it a successful nest. At about 12 weeks they’re able to fly.’’
The survey starts in the late fall as biologists look to time it when the birds have eggs in the nest. The surveys are flown again in the spring to see how many chicks have successfully hatched and nest success and productivity rates are calculated.
“The nice thing about bald eagles is that they’re fall-winter-spring nesters, they have a protracted nesting season.” Seymour said. “So we’re able to go out before leaf out (in the spring) and see the nests fairly well.’’