They are an icon of America, and are both the national bird and national animal of the United States. Now bald eagles, once threatened by near extinction on the continent, are thriving with one US state reporting fifteen times more nesting pairs than 45 years ago.
In Florida, the population of the eagle has soared in recent years and can now be found throughout the state. The future for the bird appeared grim back in the 1970s when the Fish and Wildlife Commission started conducting nesting surveys. In 1972, they found just 88 nesting pairs … but the most recent count puts it at almost 1500. That’s more than any other US state except Alaska and Minnesota.
Janell Brush, an avian research scientist with the Commission told Lonely Planet: “eagles nest in almost every county in Florida. The best places to find them are near lakes, rivers, or the coast. If you do want to view eagles be sure to do so from a distance to avoid disturbance during the nesting season, from October to May.” She said the key moment for the recovery of the bald eagle was the banning of the controversial pesticide DDT and the introduction of new conservation legislation in the 1970s.
The population has been growing ever since and really began to take off in the early 1990s. She said: “one reason for the recovery of the eagle in Florida has been the continued availability of appropriate nesting and foraging habitats.”
Strict management guidelines for construction activities anywhere near eagle nests have also been a major help, she said. Travellers to the Sunshine State on the trail of bald eagles will not have to work too hard to find them and can find advice on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Visitors can also use this mapping tool to find the latest bird spotted or upload their own sightings.