Bald eagles build 7 new nests along Mississippi

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 26, 2010 - 2:14 PM

The 25 percent increase over last year is good news for the majestic, once-endangered bird.

hide

A bald eagle

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Although home construction has been slow in much of Minnesota, one scenic sector is booming this spring: aeries in the Twin Cities.

Bald eagles added seven nests along the Mississippi River since last year, a 25 percent increase, continuing the rebound of the once-endangered national emblem.

The seven riparian aeries brought to 35 the number of active nests between Dayton and Hastings, according to a helicopter count this month.

"This is a big jump. Normally, we see two or three more a year," said John Moriarty, a Ramsey County Parks natural resources manager who does the counting. Noting that eagle pairs average two chicks a year, he added, "That increase means a lot more potential birds."

The eagle count, begun in 2006, is sponsored by the National Park Service and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Park Service workers will return to some of the nests in May to obtain samples of blood and feathers from eaglets to test for toxins found in the fish they eat, said Bill Route, a Park Service ecologist who manages the project.

Bald eagle numbers have risen as the river has become cleaner and produced more fish, since the federal Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. The birds seem to have adapted to human activity; they even have nested near a runway of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and on an island upstream from the Interstate 694 bridge in Fridley.

The number of eagle nests in the Twin Cities metro area along the Mississippi River has risen from about 10 in the mid-1990s to the current 35, plus additional nests around metro-area lakes, Moriarty said. Eagle nests are considered successful if they produce at least one offspring a year.

"The eagles are reproducing very well," said Route, the park service ecologist. He noted that nests along the Mississippi often have three chicks, and occasionally four, in good fishing areas.

A Park Service study found that the 72-mile stretch along the Mississippi through the Twin Cities, called the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, had the most young per nest among three areas studied from 2006 to 2008. The average was 1.9 eaglets per nest, compared with about 1.5 per nest for the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and 1.2 for the Apostle Islands of Wisconsin in Lake Superior. During the three-year period, seven dead eaglets were found, including a pair that drowned when their nest fell into a lake and another killed by a bacterial disease.

The eagle feathers are tested for lead and mercury; the blood samples for the pesticide DDT, PCBs and other toxic industrial chemicals absorbed by fish. "We have no data to suggest the [eagle] population has problems because of these contaminants," Route said. He added, however, "we don't know about sub-lethal effects."

Climbers go up

Next month professional climbers will scale some of the nest trees to remove eaglets, sometimes with their parents screeching nearby. The young, which can't yet fly, are carried in pouches to the ground for sampling and then returned to their nests.

"We let them go on the ground and they stand there looking at us," Route said. "Little eaglets are used to sitting on nests 3 or 4 feet wide. They are programmed to sit in that spot. They don't go running around."

Sometimes the larger eaglets peck or claw their captors. "Their beaks are pretty wicked and their talons are worse. They are strong enough to stick a talon into your arm and they don't let go,'' Route said. "We are very careful."

Many of the majestic birds migrate elsewhere, flying as far north as Manitoba and south to Arkansas. They take several years to mature and then mate for life. An interesting change this year was finding two new nests relatively close to others in the area between Cottage Grove and Rosemount, Moriarty said. The area now has about 10 nests, the most concentrated section in the Mississippi survey.

"We used to think eagles had large territories and wouldn't nest within one or two miles of each other," Moriarty said. But this area "has a series of nests less than half a mile apart. That's closer than we have seen them since they rebounded."

Bald eagle numbers plummeted across the country to a low of 417 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states in 1963. That was partly because of the toxic pesticide DDT, banned in 1972, that leeched into waterways and then into fish the birds ate, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Eagles were listed as a federal endangered species in 1967 and "delisted" in 2007, when Minnesota had an estimated 2,300 pairs, said the state Department of Natural Resources. Bald eagles are still protected by the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Two of the new nests found this month were on islands near Anoka and Dayton, bringing to six the number north of the I-694 bridge.

Jeff Weaver, who lives by the river in Anoka, recently saw a pair of eagles cavorting. "They were doing some amazing acrobatics. Rolling and diving and squawking. It's a treat to watch."

Jim Adams • 612-673-7658

  • WANT TO SEE A RAPTOR UP CLOSE?

    The University of Minnesota's Raptor Center will hold a raptor release Saturday at the Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington. Eagles, owls and other birds will be shown from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Rehabilitated raptors will be released at 1 p.m. The park is at 10145 Bush Lake Road. Directions can be found at www.threeriversparks.org. No pets, please.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 34 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Detroit 20 FINAL
Green Bay 30
Oakland 14 FINAL
Denver 47
Arizona 17 FINAL
San Francisco 20
St. Louis 6 FINAL
Seattle 20
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Pittsburgh 27
Arizona 1/3/15 3:35 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 1/3/15 7:15 PM
Pittsburgh
Detroit 103 FINAL
Cleveland 80
Houston 106 FINAL
San Antonio 110
Oklahoma City 107 FINAL
Dallas 112
New York 79 FINAL
Portland 101
Toronto 116 FINAL
Denver 102
Phoenix 116 FINAL
LA Lakers 107
Toronto 4 FINAL
Florida 6
Vancouver 1 FINAL(OT)
Anaheim 2
Tulane 57 FINAL
St Johns 82
Central Conn St 48 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Iona 81 FINAL
Drexel 62
Concordia (MI) 42 FINAL
Eastern Mich 100
Harvard 46 FINAL
Arizona State 56
Longwood 64 FINAL
Ball State 69
Sacred Heart 76 FINAL
Brown 79
Colgate 64 FINAL
Columbia 69
MD-Eastern Shore 78 FINAL
Duquesne 69
UNC Greensboro 50 FINAL
East Carolina 71
Marist 64 FINAL
Elon 69
NJIT 71 FINAL
Lafayette 76
Cincinnati Christian 58 FINAL
Liberty 78
Morgan State 53 FINAL
Marquette 81
Campbell 56 FINAL
Samford 65
Bucknell 71 FINAL
Siena 73
Long Beach State 67 FINAL
Syracuse 85
Coppin State 80 FINAL
Evansville 85
UMKC 73 FINAL
Indiana State 70
Hofstra 88 FINAL
Long Island 62
Coast Guard 48 FINAL
Army 93
Thomas (GA) 48 FINAL
High Point 85
Texas Southern 58 FINAL
Kansas State 56
Rutgers 59 FINAL
Monmouth 58
NC Wesleyan 54 FINAL
NC A&T 58
South Dakota St 63 FINAL
Northern Iowa 74
Central Penn College 69 FINAL
Radford 119
Bowling Green 79 FINAL
South Florida 70
Harris-Stowe 66 FINAL
SE Missouri St 94
Robert Morris-IL 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 104
Northland College 59 FINAL
North Dakota St 83
Milwaukee 60 FINAL
South Dakota 84
Northwestern St 92 FINAL
Arkansas 100
Saint Peters 59 FINAL
Cornell 52
St Katherine 62 FINAL
Fresno State 93
Haskell 42 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Wake Forest 65 FINAL
Richmond 63
Fla Gulf Coast 57 FINAL
Xavier 71
SD Christian 45 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Judson 46 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 80
Ill-Chicago 60 FINAL
Bradley 68
Loyola-Maryland 61 FINAL
Fairfield 59
Miss Valley St 53 FINAL
Houston 80
Lehigh 58 FINAL
UMBC 55
Delaware State 56 FINAL
Temple 66
Belmont 56 FINAL
Butler 67
Howard 59 FINAL
Fordham 74
NW Christian 67 FINAL
Nevada 81
UC Davis 83 FINAL
Washington St 90
Abilene Christian 81 FINAL
Grand Canyon 83
UCLA 50 FINAL
Alabama 56
Stony Brook 62 FINAL
Washington 57
Buffalo 56 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
CS-Bakersfield 55 FINAL
California 52
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Drexel 71 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 54
Holy Cross 63 FINAL
Norfolk State 62
East Carolina 62 FINAL
South Florida 69
(10) Oregon State 63 FINAL
(8) Tennessee 74
Providence 51 FINAL
Boston College 79
Florida A&M 47 FINAL
Miami-Florida 83
Oakland 69 FINAL
Central Michigan 74
Chattanooga 59 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 49
Fairfield 59 FINAL
La Salle 73
St Francis-PA 59 FINAL
Pittsburgh 97
Milwaukee 72 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 78
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Longwood 63
New Hampshire 58 FINAL
Manhattan 54
Bucknell 68 FINAL
Binghamton 57
Northeastern 70 FINAL
Albany 67
George Mason 70 FINAL
Towson 72
Richmond 59 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Tulane 60 FINAL
Cincinnati 50
North Florida 51 FINAL
Florida 63
(14) Georgia 51 FINAL
Seton Hall 70
Tennessee St 75 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 87
American Univ 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 77
Massachusetts 78 FINAL
Boston U 57
Quinnipiac 69 FINAL
Saint Josephs 67
Lafayette 49 FINAL
Saint Peters 34
Northwestern 61 FINAL
(20) Michigan State 57
Duquesne 82 FINAL
Lehigh 75
George Washington 72 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 49
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Indiana 51
(24) Green Bay 66 FINAL
Dayton 72
Western Mich 55 FINAL
Stony Brook 59
Davidson 67 FINAL
Virginia 57
UNC Greensboro 61 FINAL
LSU 82
Denver 63 FINAL
North Texas 55
VA Commonwealth 63 FINAL
Coppin State 52
Huston-Tillotson 36 FINAL
Houston Baptist 86
Lamar 63 FINAL
Rice 97
Miss Valley St 40 FINAL
Alabama 71
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 49
Middle Tennessee 98 FINAL
Tenn Tech 76
Penn State 52 FINAL
(23) Iowa 77
Purdue 62 FINAL
Illinois 55
DePaul 99 FINAL
Illinois State 62
Sam Houston St 46 FINAL
Wichita State 70
South Dakota 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
(4) Notre Dame 82 FINAL
UCLA 67
Coll of Charleston 51 FINAL
SC State 60
Alcorn State 53 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 63
Dartmouth 76 FINAL
Niagara 70
Colgate 68 FINAL
Siena 80
Michigan 53 FINAL
Wisconsin 63
Fla Gulf Coast 73 FINAL
CS-Northridge 64
Yale 51 FINAL
(25) Arizona State 69
UC Santa Barbara 34 FINAL
(16) Stanford 90
Long Island 63 FINAL
Long Beach St 71
Jackson State 56 FINAL
Louisiana 65
Eureka 50 FINAL
Western Ill 91
Cornell 59 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 76
Temple 58 FINAL
Memphis 57
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close