Summarizing data and developing conservation practices for eagle nesting and concentration areas in the Midwest Region

Principal Investigator: David E. Andersen.

Post-doctoral Researcher: Jason E. Bruggeman.

Status: Agreement supporting this project processed and in place, and initial data compilation and summary completed. Final reports submitted in early 2013.

Although bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) were delisted pursuant to the Endangered Species Act in 2007, they remain protected from harassment and disturbance under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act). The Eagle Act defines Important Eagle Use Areas as, “an eagle nest, foraging area, or communal roost site that eagles rely on for breeding, sheltering, or feeding, and the landscape features surrounding such nest, foraging area, or roost site that are essential for the continued viability of the site for breeding, feeding, or sheltering eagles” (50 CFR §22.3).

Foraging, communal roosting, and wintering areas (here-after called “concentration areas”) are often harder to locate and protect than nests, but may be equally important to the survival of the species. Consequently, a violation of the Eagle Act can occur if human activity at or near these concentration areas agitates eagles to the extent it causes a loss of productivity, injury, or death.

Adequate protection of eagle nesting and concentration areas is contingent upon accurate location data; however, there is currently no database of eagle concentration areas. Much information regarding eagle concentration areas is known but disparate in consistency and quality; locations may be known to one party but not shared with another. Additionally, the frequency of updating nest location and nest productivity data varies among parties. Databases of nest locations are frequently managed by state agencies and not readily shared between states. Significant amount of information on eagle concentration areas, nest disturbance, and disturbance minimization measures is in the form of “gray” literature including unpublished graduate theses, technical reports, annual monitoring reports, etc. These data need to be compiled and summarized so biologists may benefit from this information. For efficient and meaningful protection of eagles, gaps in information need to be filled and existing knowledge compiled, summarized and shared. With these improvements, the Fish and Wildlife Service can make conservation decisions grounded in scientific rationale. These conservation decisions need to be compiled into a set of Advanced Conservation Practices (ACPs), which will be tailored to various industries (wind, electric) to ensure eagle management and population growth. ACPs are scientifically-supportable measures approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service that represent the best-available techniques to reduce eagle disturbance and/or ongoing mortalities to a level where remaining take is unavoidable.