Bald Eagle Numbers On The Rise

Kids' Outdoor Outpost: September 2022

Joe Schuster | August 27, 2022

During a mid August float on Lake Lanier, I took the opportunity to simply enjoy the pleasures of being on the water. It was a great time to contemplate the upcoming deer season. As I watched beautiful white clouds drift over the lake on a brilliant blue sky bathed in sunshine, I noticed an incredible sight. A huge bald eagle was soaring around the island that we had anchored off of. Watching this bird surely left little doubt as to the reason why this was selected as our national bird and a symbol of our country and not the wild turkey that Ben Franklin wanted. 

“Majestic” is the word that comes to mind as it soared, gliding on the thermal layers of a hot day on the lake. It scarcely flapped its wings as it slid quietly around our island. Everybody on our boat stopped to watch as it is a rare sight for many to see this bird. 

On a positive note, bald eagle nestings are increasing. Our Georgia Department of Natural Resources actually survey them. According to the DNR, 2017 surveys documented a then-record 218 nests, at least 142 of which were successful. But in 2022, the totals ranged higher to 229 nests, 227 of which were monitored and 146 were successful. The success of these nests can be negatively impacted by severe weather, lack of food sources or wildlife predators, such as raccoons that will feast on the nest eggs. Around the lake the eagles may eat carrion (dead animals), squirrels, turtle and even snakes. A good part of their success has been through protection by the Endangered Species Act that prohibits importing, exporting, taking, possessing, selling and transporting endangered and threatened species. 

We’ve all seen photos of these awesome birds with their characteristic white head, yellow beak and white tail. But that coloration takes place on mature birds after age 4 or 5. Up until that point the head and tail may appear gray and the beak a shade of brown. Here are some additional interesting facts: the female bald eagles are actually larger than males and weigh 10 to 15 pounds. The males come in at 6 to 9 pounds. The bird can grow as tall as 3 feet and have a huge wingspan that can span a length of 8 feet from tip to tip! 

The eagle not only adorns the top of many U.S. flags but has been featured in several pieces of our currency, including the quarter, half dollar, silver dollar and dollar bill. I hope you get to enjoy a sighting in your near future! 

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