Bald Eagle nests soar to record number across Wisconsin

Bald Eagle on tree branch in Kaukauna, December 6, 2017 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

KAUKAUNA (WLUK) -- Wisconsin Bald Eagle population is growing at a record pace, according to experts.

But that growth isn't necessarily happening in Northeast Wisconsin.

On the Fox River in Kaukauna, an adult Bald Eagle swoops in for a landing on a tree crowded with birds. Naturalists say the 1000 Islands Conservancy Zone is a good place to eagle watch.

"Usually, on a given day, you can probably find a couple to three dozen eagles hanging out in the conservancy zone," said Debbie Nowak, 1000 Islands Enviromental Center Naturalist.

For the third straight year, eagle sightings set a record. The Deparment of Natural Resources reports 1590 occupied eagle nests in the state. That's a 5.7 percent increase from last year's 1504.

But even though official sightings were up around the state, there was a drop in Northeast Wisconsin.

There were 171 nests reported this year, compared to 176 a year ago.That's a drop of 2.8 percent.

"It's not necessarily we need to get concerned about, all of a sudden. Just one year's data isn't going to tell us a lot. If we see a continued downward trend, then we might need to look at what's going on in our area," said Nowak.

Outagamie County currently has 12 nests. That's an increase from 8 just two years ago. The DNR conducts the aerial survey in the spring in 8 zones around the state.

"That's what our surveys consist of right now is just occupants. So, if we see a bird sitting on a nest, or a bird sitting near a nest, then we consider that occupied," said Joe Henry, DNR Upper Lake Michigan Ecologist.

Scientists say the 1972 ban of the chemical D.D.T. is a big factor in the birds' success. The pesticide made eggs thin, causing many nests to fail.

Back at 1000 Islands, the big birds continue to soar.

"Just their comeback story. From the brink of extinction to now thriving in our state is really a fantastic thing to see," said Nowak.

There are events around the area celebrating the birds' success.

That includes Eagle Days in Kaukauna on January 27, 2018.

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