Bald eagles rebound at wildlife refuge

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

In the 30 years that bald eagles have been nesting in the wild at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Zimmerman, a total of 199 eaglets have been produced.

This year there were 14 nests, 12 active pairs and 10 eaglets that fledged or left the nest.

The refuge was established in 1965 and the first bald eagles were recorded nesting there in 1983. That year one pair produced two eaglets, according to refuge records.

The number of active pairs and eaglets climbed gradually through the years. By 1997 a total of 50 eaglets had fledged from nests at the refuge since the first were recorded in 1983. By 2004, that number hit 100.

After nearly disappearing from most of the United States decades ago, the bald eagle is now flourishing across the nation, according to the refuge. Eagles were removed from the endangered species list in 2007.

Eagles had been threatened by pesticide use, with DDT causing the thinning of their eggshells. Lead poisoning from contaminated prey and habitat loss were other factors, according to the refuge.

Betsy Beneke, refuge visitor services manager, said the bald eagle population growth has been exponential since the days of DDT and low numbers of eagles.

“It’s taken a long time to get to a point when the population can really grow, and we’ve seen it in the last five years,” she said.

Fast facts about bald eagles

•An eagle’s wingspan is 6.5 to 8 feet.

•The birds reach speeds of 20 to 60 mph.

•An eagle’s longevity is 30 years.

•The female bald eagle is larger than the male.

•Eagles mate for life.

•Eagle nests weigh up to two tons and can be as large as nine feet wide by 20 feet deep.

Source: Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge