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Bald eagle sighting along the west branch of the Susquehanna River, July 2, 2019. Photo credit: Michael Kinney

The bald eagle has been our national bird and our country’s symbol of freedom and strength since 1782. 

In the early 1980s, the bald eagle’s numbers had dropped to startling lows in Pa., according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, with only three recorded nesting pairs in the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The pesticide DDT was blamed for decimating the population in the 1950s and 60s, damaging the food supply and water quality on which the birds rely.

The Game Commission launched an eagle reintroduction program from 1983-89 to bolster the number of nesting eagles in the state.

In 1990, conservationists counted eight active nests, and from there they recorded a rising trend. In 2000 they counted 48, and by 2006, reported the PGC, the numbers rose above 100. 

Experts currently report more than 300 nesting pairs in the state and say there are similiar increases being reported in Chesapeake Bay and New York bald eagle populations.

While the bald eagle is no longer a threatened species, the animals are still protected. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act makes it illegal to take birds, eggs, or nests of bald and golden eagles.  

Northcentral Pa. is an area ripe for eagle sightings. The Commonwealth is asking for the public’s assistance in finding and monitoring locations of nests. They are also reminding those who are out eagle sighting to be responsible and mindful of how human presence might affect the natural environment. A few rules to mind include: 

  • Stay at least 1,000 feet from a nest, roost, or feeding area

  • Be calm and quiet, and try to stay out of direct sight. Eagles are easily startled 

  • Flushing an eagle off a nest may expose the eggs or young eaglets to cold or wet weather or a nest predator, according to the Game Comission website 

  • Don’t trespass on private property to view an eagle or its nesting area

Visit the Bald Eagle Nest Survey if you have informaton to report to the PA Game Commission, and review the entire Bald Eagle Nest Etiquette Guidelines to ensure you don’t cause a nesting eagle undue stress in your explorations.