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Press Release

ADCNR Scheduled To Begin Annual Airborne Monitoring of Bald Eagles in Alabama During The Second Week of January 2005

January 07, 2005

Montgomery, AL - Wildlife experts with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are scheduled to take to the skies during the second week of January 2005, as they begin their airborne monitoring of bald eagles in Alabama.  The annual surveys launch the 21st year of the Alabama Bald Eagle Restoration Project.

Alabama Wildlife Biologist Keith Hudson and Alabama Department of Conservation pilot, Ray Stroud, will board a state plane and fly along the riverbanks of the Tennessee River in North Alabama to count wintering bald eagles. The Alabama Department of Conservation, along with biologists from various partnering federal natural resource agencies, will also survey other large bodies of water in the state for wintering eagles. This annual mid-winter survey has been conducted along the same standardized survey routes since 1979, and is coordinated by the Alabama Department of Conservation’s Nongame Wildlife Program. 

Following the count for wintering eagles, Hudson, Stroud and Alabama Nongame Wildlife Coordinator Mark Sasser will fly statewide throughout late January until the middle of May to conduct an annual survey of bald eagle nests. The team will take note of the number of nests that are successful and the number of young they produce. Last year, there were 53 known active nests in Alabama, which produced 67 young eagles.

"Eighteen years ago, you couldn’t find a single nesting bald eagle in Alabama," says Sasser. "Now, we have 53 active nests, and we hope to find a few more during the survey.  Alabama’s Bald Eagle Restoration Project has been highly successful, and we anticipate more progress in the future."

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says at one time, there were more than one million bald eagles in the United States. The population dwindled in the 1950s and 1960s primarily due to the devastating effects of DDT, which was banned in 1972. When Alabama’s Bald Eagle Restoration Project began in 1984, bald eagles had not successfully nested in the state since 1949. That changed in 1991, with two successful eagle nests in Henry and Wilcox counties.

Sasser says the goal of Alabama’s Bald Eagle Restoration Project is 100 active nests in the state.  "We have asked the public in the past to contact the Alabama Department of Conservation if they have seen any bald eagles, and the response was incredible. Now, we are asking the public to contact us only if they see a bald eagle nest," says Sasser.  The number to call is 334-242-3469.  The e-mail address is msasser@dcnr.state.al.us.

Where You Can See Bald Eagles in Alabama January through mid-February

The time to view bald eagles in Alabama is January through mid-February since they migrate here from Northern states and Canada.  Bald eagles spend the winter here enjoying more moderate temperatures and ice-free waters before returning North in the spring.  According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, here are the best locations to view bald eagles:

  • Lake Guntersville State Park. A stretch along Alabama 227 north of Lake Guntersville State Park takes you into the upper Town Creek watershed, which contains one of the largest bald eagle roosts in Alabama. The best vantage point is 2.6 miles east of the intersection of Marshall County 582 and Alabama 227. There is an overlook at that point giving you a view of the valley below.  There are several other locations around Lake Guntersville where you might see the eagles. For more information, go by the Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge or call the park at 1-800-548-4553.
  • Waterloo sits west of the Natchez Trace Parkway in northwestern Alabama. Sightings of half a dozen bald eagles are quite common during the winter, and at times over twenty have been seen. From Cherokee, Alabama, at the junction of US 72 and Natchez Trace Parkway, go north on the Natchez Trace for 11.4 miles to CR 14. Turn left onto CR 14 and travel 10 miles to CR 1 just before the town of Waterloo. Turn right onto CR 1 and follow it north 1.5 miles to a picnic area along the lakeshore on the left.

Other good locations in the Waterloo area to view eagles include Brush Creek Park, and the shoulders of Lauderdale County 14 where the road is right on the Tennessee River. The best way to see a bald eagle at Waterloo is to cruise the river banks by boat.

How to Watch Bald Eagles

  • Arrive early (7 a.m.-9 a.m.) or stay late (4 p.m.-5 p.m.), when eagles are most active.
  • Scan the tree line for eagles that are sitting in the tree tops along the water.
  • Use binoculars or a land telescope to observe the eagles closely.
  • Photographers should use telephoto lenses.
  • Never approach an eagle or eagle nest.
  • Don’t make loud or sudden noises.
  • Do not enter private property without the owner’s permission.
  • Follow all laws, rules and regulations governing the use of roads and public areas.

Interesting Bald Eagle Facts

  • The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates there are more than 7,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the continental United States.
  • Bald eagles are protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Killing an eagle could bring fines of up to $100,000.
  • Bald eagles have a wing span of seven to eight feet and can live up to 30 years.
  • The trademark white head and tail does not develop until about five years of age.
  • Bald eagles can see prey from as far away as a mile and a half and can dive at 100 mph.
  • Bald eagle nests can be as much as 10 feet wide and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds.
  • Bald eagles mate for life and will only choose another mate if their companion dies.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes the statewide stewardship and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy them. The department also advises the state government on management of freshwater fish, wildlife, marine resources, waterway safety, state lands, state parks and other natural resources. This includes the administration, management and maintenance of 24 state parks, 23 public fishing lakes, three freshwater fish hatcheries, 34 wildlife management areas, two waterfowl refuges, two wildlife sanctuaries, a mariculture center with 35 ponds and 645,000 acres of trust lands. Other departmental functions include maintenance of a State Land Resource Information Center and administration of the Forever Wild land acquisition program.