Birdwatchers and patriots alike can celebrate some good news today. The American bald eagle is thriving in Oregon.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission just approved removing the bald eagle from the Oregon Endangered Species List.
According to Catherine Flick, coordinator of the annual Gorge-wide Christmas Bird Count for the Audubon Society, bald eagle populations in the Gorge and across Oregon have increased steadily since the late 1970s.
"We have about 8 to 10 permanent resident pairs between Cascade Locks and Mosier," said Flick.
Flick also noted that in the winter months, when preferred eagle food supplies of fish and water fowl increase, an additional 120 or more individual birds also become temporary residents of the area.
"On Feb. 7, I sighted the first nesting bird in the Gorge," said Flick. "This is very early and it appears that the eggs hatched last week."
OFW Commissioners called recovery of bald eagles in Oregon a great success made possible through the cooperation of many agencies, landowners and other partners.
Biologists estimated a minimum population of 570 nesting pairs of bald eagles in Oregon in 2010, compared to just 65 pairs in 1978.
"Eagles are very territorial. They return to the same nests every year," said Flick. "As long as they are not harassed and nothing happens to the nests, they will return."
Flick wanted to emphasize the importance of keeping those birds and their nests "harassment-free."
"Just like any species, like us even, they need their privacy," said Flick. "They will flush off their nests if disturbed"; which may also lead to abandonment of eaglets and eggs.
Flick noted that visiting wintering eagles also arrive from thousands of miles away including Arizona, California, Yellowstone Park and the Northwest Territories.
"There are all age classes of birds here in the winter. It takes four to five years for them to become adults and we see both juveniles and adults here."
Flick has been involved with the Christmas Bird Count since 2000 and also conducts monthly winter raptor surveys throughout the Gorge. This winter a new bald eagle nesting site was found in Tygh Valley - the first in decades in that area.
The bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007. Bald eagles are still protected under a number of state and federal laws.