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Eagle survey shows rise in nests

POSTED: April 20, 2009 12:28 p.m.

FORSYTH — Bald eagle populations continue to soar in Georgia, with 2009 totals from the state Department of Natural Resources showing increases in nests and young fledged.

Checks done mainly by helicopter this winter and spring counted 124 occupied bald eagle nesting territories, 98 successful nests and 162 young fledged. That’s up from last year when 112 occupied territories, 85 successful nests — those in which eagles are raised to the point they can fly — and 134 eaglets were reported. The 2008 numbers marked a slight dip from the previous year.

Nongame program manager Jim Ozier of the DNR Wildlife Resources Division said Georgia’s eagle population has been gradually increasing for years. These iconic raptors, taken off the federal endangered/threatened species list in summer 2008, are nesting in suitable habitat across the state, taking advantage of reservoirs and ponds that offer their primary prey — fish.

"Thirteen (new) nests were documented this year," including the first at Lake Blue Ridge, Ozier said.

The surveys led by Ozier, who has monitored Georgia’s bald eagles for two decades, are an example of the programs supported by Georgians who buy a wildlife conservation license plate or donate to the Give Wildlife a Chance state income tax checkoff. Both programs benefit the Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state funds for its mission to help conserve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and habitats in the state.

Bald eagles are one of more than 600 high-priority nongame animals and plants identified in the Georgia Wildlife Action Plan, a strategy guiding state conservation efforts.

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