TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The bald eagle population in Florida is making a resurgence.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says Florida is one of the top spots in the lower 48 states for bald eagles to nest and raise their young.
The FWC estimates there are 1,457 active bald eagles nests in Florida. This represents a 9% increase since 2008. The FWC started their bald eagle management plan in 2008. In 1973 there were only 88 active nests. The FWC is basing their data on their 2011 aerial survey.
Tuesday leaders from the FWC and Audubon Florida were at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland to highlight the bald eagle's recovery and to also discuss the challenge of how to keep the population increasing. It was also a chance to celebrate the 4th of July holiday a day early.
FWC Chairman Kenneth Wright said, "Bald eagles have made a remarkable recovery in Florida. The FWC and Audubon are working together to protect bald eagles in Florida, so these majestic raptors will continue to soar as a symbol of national pride and conservation success."
Audubon Florida has been recruiting citizen-scientists to help them monitor bald eagles and their nests through its EagleWatch program. The program operates in over 40 Florida counties. By using the citizen-scientist program, 20% of the state's nesting pairs of bald eagles are monitored.
"Audubon is proud to have played a role in the bald eagle's amazing success story in Florida," said Eric Draper, executive director for Audubon Florida. "Our dedicated staff and EagleWatch volunteers, along with our state agency partners, have helped to identify potential threats to these magnificent birds and their nest sites, but our work is far from done. Together, we are leading the nation in the protection of this important and iconic species."
Audubon Florida has been working with ranchers in the state going back 50 years, starting with the Cooperative Kissimmee Eagle Sanctuary Program.
The largest bald eagle populations in Florida can be found concentrated around freshwater and coastal areas. Osceola and Polk counties ranked first and second, respectively, for the highest documented number of bald eagles nests in 2011.
A continuing increase of the bald eagle population in Florida is dependent upon the continued availability of appropriate nesting and foraging habitats, as well as protection during the nesting season, the FWC said.
Bald eagles are federally protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and by state rule. It is illegal to feed, disturb, take or possess a bald eagle, its feathers, nest or eggs.
The public can report new eagle nest locations to BaldEagle@MyFWC.com.
First Coast News