- The bald eagle is America’s most loved avian and enjoys a varied carnivorous diet.
- Its population once plummeted to 1,000 in the 1950s.
- However, that figure currently stands at over 300,000 making this raptor one of the nation’s greatest conservation success stories.
The bald eagle is a symbol of American pride. Here we will take a look at the bald eagle population by state.
Meet the Bald Eagle
The American bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a predatory raptor native to the United States. This striking, large, black, and white bird is the national symbol of the United States.
Where do American bald eagles live?
They live all over the United States and are abundant in most states.
What do bald eagles eat?
They are raptors who live near wetlands, so their primary diet is fish. They also hunt and eat:
What is the bald eagle population by state?
There are an estimated 316,700 bald eagles in the lower 48 states, according to the Migratory Bird Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). This is excellent news for a bird that was once endangered. In 2021, USFWS Deputy Director Martha Williams said, “The recovery of the bald eagle is one of the most well-known conservation success stories of all time.”
In the 1950s, there were fewer than 1,000 birds left in the country. Conservation efforts, bans on certain pesticides, and laws against hunting all contributed to helping their populations increase.
In spite of an elevation in status to the emblem of the United States in 1782, the population of bald eagles would plummet with the passing of the years.
This was due to the fact that they were considered a menace by both fishermen (who believed they frightened away salmon), and livestock breeders, alike.
As recently as the previous century these regal raptors found themselves in the crosshairs of the government of Alaska with a 50-cent bounty on their heads. By the 1950s, the extensive use of DDT almost led to their extinction. Fortunately, the insecticide was banned in 1972 and efficient conservation programs entered the fray. And by 2007, the bald eagle no longer required its protected status.
Please note that some wildlife organizations count birds as breeding pairs. This is a good way to tell how well a bird population is doing. For our population numbers, we relied on official numbers from each state’s Fish and Wildlife Department, Department of Natural Resources, or another source.
BALD EAGLE POPULATION BY STATE
Alabama has about 200 breeding pairs of bald eagles.
Alaska has more bald eagles than any other state. They thrive along the state’s cold coastal waters. They also live in Alaska’s many interior lakes and rivers. The state is home to the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.
The state has taken many steps to protect bald eagles, and it has seen a steady increase in numbers as a result. According to the state’s Game and Fish Department, Arizona has around 69 breeding pairs, and a record 87 young bald eagles hatched during the 2019 breeding season.
The best time to view these majestic birds in their Natural State is in winter when 1,700 of these birds descend on bodies of water in search of nourishment to get through the cold months. Wildlife experts and bird enthusiasts agree that the period between November to January is the best for catching a glimpse of these majestic raptors in their natural habitat.
The state has around 1,000 bald eagles who migrate to the state to spend the winter months. The state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife says the best times to view them are during the winter months from December to March. The state does not get many bald eagles who winter there.
Colorado has about 200 resident breeding pairs of bald eagles. It also has around 1,000 pairs of bald eagles that spend the winter there.
Like many states, Connecticut lost its entire bald eagle population by the 1950s. Today, it is home to 45 healthy breeding pairs. The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reports that Connecticut saw record-breaking numbers of active territories and successful nests. Its bald eagles produced 81 baby chicks and 14 new nesting territories.
Delaware has worked hard to improve its habitats for bald eagles. Many of the state’s breeding pairs can be seen close to the Delaware River.
After Alaska, this is one of the best places in the U.S. to see these beautiful raptors. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, they live along most coastal areas, rivers, and lakes of the state. Florida is also a favorite stop for visiting eagles.
Georgia has struggled to keep healthy bald eagle populations. The bird has been protected by the state’s endangered species laws. In recent years, the state has set aside conservation areas and introduced baby bald eagles into the bird’s former ranges. This had led to the current count of around 200 nesting pairs.
There are no bald eagles in Hawaii.
Idaho’s bald eagle breeding pairs went from around 10 to more than 200 thanks to conservation efforts. The exact numbers are not known, but state wildlife officials say the breeding populations are healthy and growing. The state’s many wildlife refuges are excellent places to see these birds.
Illinois has around 40 breeding pairs of bald eagles, but the state’s bald eagle population increases to more than 3,000 in the winter. Birds begin migrating to the state in December and continue doing so until April. This is the largest wintering population in the U.S. outside of Alaska. The state hosts yearly eagle-watching events called Bald Eagle Days during the winter months.
Bald eagles were driven out of the state, but it now boasts a healthy population of 300 breeding pairs thanks to conservation and reintroduction efforts. An added 300 estimated birds visit the state in the winter.
Like other states, Iowa sees a huge increase in its bald eagle population in the winter months. The annual migration of about 3,000 birds makes it one of the best places to see visiting birds. They nest along the Cedar and Iowa Rivers.
Kansas began reintroducing bald eagles about 30 years ago, and the state’s efforts have paid off. According to state wildlife officials, there are 137 nesting pairs in the state. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism launched a three-year program in 2020 to study the impact of wind energy development on bald eagle populations.
Kentucky’s bald eagles primarily live in the western part of the state, but in recent years, they have been spotted in the central and eastern areas.
Louisiana has a healthy, thriving bald eagle population. In 2015, the Audubon Society named the state a chief population center for bald eagles. It has 350 resident breeding pairs and hosts hundreds more in the winter season. Only Florida hosts more birds annually. According to the state’s Fish and Wildlife Service, the birds primarily live in Terrebonne Parish.
Maine has seen steady increases in its bald eagle population. In 2008, the state delisted the bald eagle from the state’s Endangered and Threatened Species List. In doing so, it cited the birds’ steady reproduction and the existence of protected areas.
State officials stopped counting bald eagle populations when evidence showed that its breeding populations were thriving. Another estimated 2,000 bald eagles live around the Chesapeake Bay in areas that include both Maryland and Virginia.
The state lists the bald eagle as a species of special concern, but state wildlife officials report that the current population is well on the way to recovery.
After being driven to near extinction in Michigan, the bald eagle has made an impressive recovery in this state. Eagles nest along Lake Michigan, rivers, and inland lakes.
Minnesota has a large, healthy bald eagle population. According to the state’s Department of Natural Resources, this includes 30 nesting pairs in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Mississippi has around 100 bald eagles that live along the Mississippi River.
Missouri’s bald eagles live along lakes in the Ozark Mountains and the Missouri River. It also welcomes many bald eagles that spend the winter there. The Missouri Department of Conservation hosts Bald Eagle Days to give visitors a close look at migrating bald eagles.
Montana’s bald eagle population is growing, and the state says it can support even more breeding populations.
Nebraska reintroduced bald eagles about 20 years ago, and their population has rebounded. The state also hosts several hundred visiting bald eagles every winter.
Nevada does not have resident bald eagles, but about 150 bald eagles visit the state every winter. Visitors flock to the Carson Valley to see them.
New Hampshire has about 500 eagles. Most of the state’s bald eagles migrate to other states during New Hampshire’s icy winters.
New Jersey’s bald eagles mostly live along coastlines and the Cape May shoreline.
New Mexico’s bald eagle population has steadily increased in the past decades, and state wildlife officials say the birds have set up breeding sites in some parts of the state. However, the state does not count population numbers because these breeding sites are very recent. New Mexico hosts hundreds of bald eagles who spend the winter in the state every year.
The areas around the Saint Lawrence and Hudson Rivers attract many eagles in the winter.
North Carolina introduced 29 bald eagles into the state in 1983. Since then, the population has steadily grown. In a 2020 count, there were around 400 bald eagles in the state.
In 2021, North Dakota’s Game and Fish Department reported that the state had tripled its earlier count of 100 nesting pairs.
Ohio: 707 Pairs
Ohio has a growing bald eagle population. Most of the eagles live near Lake Erie.
Oklahoma is home to 600 nesting pairs of eagles, and hundreds of bald eagles visit the state every winter.
Like many states, Oregon stopped counting birds when it reached its recovery goals, and the number could be higher.
The state is also home to migratory bald eagles that visit the Susquehanna River during the winter.
Rhode Island has fewer than 10 active, breeding pairs. The state has seen an increase in nesting sites and migratory visitors, however, the number seems to be rising.
South Carolina has met its recovery goals with 440 active breeding pairs.
In 2015, the state delisted the bald eagle from the Endangered Species List. South Dakota’s eagles do not migrate.
Tennessee has a stable population of breeding pairs and hosts hundreds of migratory bald eagles in the winter.
Texas’s bald eagles live along its rivers and lakes. Texas is also a favorite wintering site for many bald eagles, especially in the Panhandle and coastal regions.
Utah: Visitors only
It is not known whether Utah has active, healthy breeding pairs of bald eagles. The state welcomes hundreds of wintering bald eagles every year. The state has designated February as Bald Eagle Month.
Vermont was one of the last states to reintroduce bald eagles. It did so in 2003, and it has seen a steady increase in its bald eagle population since then. In 2020, the state met its recovery goal with 68 breeding pairs. The state and numerous conservation groups have said that Vermont can safely delist the bald eagle from its Endangered Species List.
Virginia is another state where bald eagles have made an outstanding comeback.
The state also attracts many bald eagles from colder northern regions. An estimated 80% of the birds here have come from other states or Canada.
The Mountain State is home to around 300 breeding pairs.
Wisconsin’s wildlife officials say there are bald eagle nesting sites in all but one of the state’s 72 counties.
Wyoming does not officially count bald eagles, but state wildlife officials say the bird has healthy nesting sites on all the state’s major river systems. The population seems to be on the increase.
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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