Reflecting national trends, Ohio's bald eagle population continues to grow in numbers and expand in territory. Biologists with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife count a record high of 184 nests in the state this year, the twenty-first consecutive year that the state's breeding bald eagle population increased.
Of those 184 nests, 119 were known to be successful in producing young eagles; a determination of success could not be made at 16 other nests. Current reports from wildlife biologists and volunteer observers estimate 222 total young eagles hatched in nests in 43 Ohio counties. At least 203 of these eaglets have already fledged.
"The success bald eagles have had in Ohio in recent years had allowed the division to downgrade the status of the bald eagle from endangered to threatened," said David M. Graham, chief of the Division of Wildlife, citing the April approval from the Ohio Wildlife Council to put the bald eagle, osprey, and peregrine falcon on the state's threatened list.
Last year, Ohio marked 164 nests, with 115 of those nests producing 194 eaglets. This year, 21 new nests have been identified in 18 counties.
In the second year since being removed from the federal Endangered Species List, bald eagles have made a dramatic comeback. Since 1979 - when only four bald eagle pairs were found in the state - the Division of Wildlife has helped reestablish Ohio's eagle population through habitat development and protection; fostering of young eagles; and extensive observation of eagle nesting behavior.
Most eagle nests in Ohio are located along the shores of Lake Erie, but now some are well inland, including nests in Delaware, Hancock, Mercer and Wyandot counties. Counties with new nests in 2008 were Ashland (1), Belmont (1), Columbiana (1), Erie (2), Geauga (1), Highland (1), Lorain (1), Lucas (1), Mahoning (1), Ottawa (2), Pickaway (1), Richland (1), Ross (1), Sandusky (1), Trumbull (1), Tuscarawas (1), Wood (1), and Wyandot (2). A majority of the nests occur on private land.
An average eagle nest ranges from 3 to 5 feet in width and 3 to 6 feet in depth. The nests are usually built high in a tall tree. Both male and female eagles share in the incubation and feeding of the young, which begin to leave the nest at about 12 weeks of age. An adult bald eagle has snow-white head and tail feathers. Its body color is very dark brown, almost black. Yellow eyes, beak, and feet accent the bird's appearance. Young eagles do not achieve this appearance until the age of 5 or 6 years. Until that time, they are uniformly dark brown from head to tail feather. Their undersides are mottled white with buff and cream blotches.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife's work with bald eagles is funded through the sale of the bald eagle license plate. Proceeds from the sale of this plate are devoted to acquisition of habitat, management, and study of the bald eagle. To purchase the bald eagle license plate, contact your local deputy registrar or call the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles at 1-888-PLATES3.
Funding is provided, in part, through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service State Wildlife Grants Program, which benefits species of greatest conservation need. Additional funding for bald eagle restoration is derived from contributions to the Wildlife Diversity and Endangered Species Fund through a check-off on the Ohio state income tax form.