OUT: Commission could rule bald eagle no longer threatened
America’s favorite not-yellow Big Bird, the bald eagle, may take another step toward official recovery Monday when the Colorado Wildlife Commission considers a proposal to remove the eagle from the state threatened species list.
The bald eagle was fledged off the federal endangered species list in 2007, and state researchers are saying eagle populations in Colorado have exceeded minimum requirements to delist the bird.
From a low of 414 birds in 1987, when the Colorado Division of Wildlife began its midwinter eagle counts, to a high of 989 in 1994, bald eagle numbers have continued an upward trend, said DOW bird conservation coordinator David Klute.
“The bald eagle has made a pretty dramatic recovery, both here in Colorado and nationally,” said Klute in an interview Friday. “Here in Colorado, the population has gone from one nesting pair in the 1970s to consistently more than 100 today.”
Bald eagles were first listed on the state endangered list in 1984 following widespread population declines in the mid-1900s. The ingestion of pesticides, particularly DDT, was implicated as among the leading causes of bald eagle decline.
In 1993, with pesticide use under strict regulations and bald eagle populations starting to rebound, the bird was downlisted to the state threatened status.
Populations of bald eagles have continued generally to increase in Colorado, with last year’s midwinter aerial count showing approximately 780 eagles, down from the 870 seen in 2006.
“There has been no apparent trend in the number of overwintering eagles and numbers appear to be stable,” writes Klute in his recommendation for removal. “It should be noted that the aerial midwinter counts has not been consistent; thus, these data should be interpreted to reflect general long-term trends and not accurate total numbers.”
At the time of federal delisting in 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated there were 9,789 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. That same year, it was estimated there were 110 active bald eagle nests in Colorado. Klute said 70 percent to 80 percent of those nest are occupied each year.
Most of the nests are found in northern Colorado, concentrated along the South Platte River and its tributaries and along the Yampa, White and Colorado rivers. Other nesting sites are found in Montezuma and La Plata counties with a few more scattered around the state.