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Administration Home News/Information Contact Us DNR Home   

Joe Manchin III, Governor

Frank Jezioro, Director


News Release : September 7, 2006


Hoy Murphy, Public Information Officer (304) 558-3381

Contact: Craig Stihler, Wildlife Resources Section (304) 637-0245

Record Year for Bald Eagles in the Mountain State!

“As the West Virginia Wildlife Resources Section’s Wildlife Diversity Program prepares to celebrate its 25 th anniversary, we are very proud of the increase in the number of bald eagles nesting in the state over the past 25 years,” notes DNR wildlife biologist Craig Stihler. The first documented bald eagle nest in the state was discovered in Hampshire County in 1981, the year legislation was passed to create the Nongame Wildlife Program, the predecessor of today’s Wildlife Diversity Program. Twenty-five years later, 17 successful nests produced a total of 32 eaglets.

Eagle Photo by USFWSBoth the number of successful nests and the number of young fledged are the highest on record. In addition, 2006 witnessed the first successful nest outside the Potomac River drainage. This summer, a nest in the Ohio River drainage fledged two young eagles.

In 2001, a pair of eagles nested on Blennerhassett Island in the Ohio River, but the pair was unsuccessful and did not return to nest the following spring. The 2006 eagles’ nests were located in Grant, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral, Morgan, and Pendleton counties. Two additional nests monitored in 2006 were abandoned during the nesting season, but biologists anticipate these birds will return to try again in 2007.

Each spring, Wildlife Resources Section biologists monitor known nests and search for new nests in areas where pairs of adult birds are seen during the nesting season. Many of the nests they monitor were reported by the public. Please report eagle nests or pairs of eagles observed in late winter and spring to: Eagle Report, P.O. Box 67, Elkins, WV 26241 or call (304) 637-0245. You can also check out our fact sheet on the bald eagle on the WVDNR Web site, .

Eagle Photo by USFWSIn historic times, eagles may have nested in the area that would later become West Virginia, but no old records of nesting eagles exist. The first documented nesting was in 1981. A second nest, this one in Pendleton County, was not discovered until 1987. Over the years, additional eagle pairs have taken up residence in the state’s Eastern Panhandle, but it wasn’t until 25 years later that a nest produced young in the Ohio River drainage.

Weather can play an important role in determining the outcome of nesting attempts. “This year’s weather was more favorable than in 2005, when three nests were destroyed during an ice storm in early April, and only 16 young eagles were fledged,” Stihler explained.

Bald eagles are large birds of prey with wingspans of up to seven feet. Young eagles are brown or brown mottled with white. The birds do not attain their characteristic white head and tail until they are at least four years old. Bald eagles mate for life, and both birds (the female is a little larger than the male) take part in incubating the eggs and feeding the young. The eggs hatch after 35 days and the young remain in the nest until they are 10 to 13 weeks old. Bald eagle feed largely on fish, but will eat other items, even carrion, if available.

Eagle photo by Stephen Shaluta at the WV Division of TourismThe bald eagle was adopted as our national symbol in 1782. Over the years, eagle numbers declined as a result of habitat loss, degradation of water quality, persecution, and, beginning in the 1940s, the widespread use of the pesticide DDT. In 1969 the bald eagle was declared an endangered species in the lower 48 states.

Laws passed to protect eagles, a ban on the use of DDT in the early 1970s, and improving water quality have allowed eagle populations to increase and expand their range. In 1995 the status of the bald eagle in the lower states was upgraded from endangered to threatened. Today, both state and federal laws protect eagles in West Virginia.


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