2006 survey results assessing the bald eagle’s recovery show that sightings in South Carolina were up this year, 581, a slight increase from last year’s tally of 536.
The Department of the Interior’s Biological Resources Division coordinates the national Midwinter Eagle Survey, which is entering its 29th consecutive year. Each state organizes volunteers to conduct surveys and site-specific summaries of bald eagle observations. South Carolina’s survey efforts, coordinated by Tom Murphy and Charlotte Hope, biologists with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), have been a product of many individuals, bird clubs, as well as state and federal agencies. The survey uses Standard Survey Routes to ensure greater consistency among eagle observations. The survey seeks to determine the winter distribution of bald eagles nationwide, as well as identify previously unknown areas of important wintering habitat.
The results from the 2006 survey included 483 adult bald eagles, 93 immature bald eagles and 4 golden eagles in South Carolina, covering over 2,000 miles in 27 different counties. The upcoming 2007 survey will take place January 3 -17, with target dates on January 12-13.
Previous years’ bald eagle observations in South Carolina:
The DNR participates in the Midwinter Eagle Survey for several reasons. The Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of DNR conducts aerial surveys of eagle nesting areas and standardized boat surveys of major rivers throughout the coastal plain during the survey period. The DNR monitors wintering eagles from northern populations and uses survey information to locate new breeding areas. The data obtained provide a more succinct state and national assessment. According to Murphy, the surveys have been an important tool in monitoring the recovery of eagles in South Carolina and they provide the only monitoring of juvenile bald eagles. They have also aided the DNR in locating new nesting territories, because eagles are nesting in South Carolina when the surveys take place in January.
Of notable record, it’s also been observed through these surveying efforts that South Carolina’s nesting population has been increasing at a rate of over 5% a year.
According to Murphy, “Despite new emerging challenges associated with widespread rapid coastal development, the South Carolina bald eagle population continues to expand and is now a widespread and conspicuous component of the state’s avifauna.”