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Bald Eagle Banding, Alpine, AZ

Bald Eagle Banding, Alpine, AZ


When America adopted the bald eagle as the
national symbol in 1782 the country may have had as many as 100,000 nesting eagles. The
first major decline of the species probably began in the mid to late 1800’s. In 1971 Arizona had only 4 nesting pairs.
In 1978 they were listed as an Endangered Species. Today we are near Alpine, Arizona where Kenneth
“Tuk” Jacobson, The Arizona Game & Fish Bald Eagle Management Coordinator is climbing
a 113 foot tree to the eagle’s nest. Eagles mate for life, choosing the tops of
large trees or cliff faces to build nests, which they typically use and enlarge each
year. Nests may reach ten feet across and weigh a half ton This pair, have been nesting here every year
for twenty years. These eagles are twenty-five years old and
have produced twenty-five offspring. Recent studies show that approximately 70
percent of eagle nestlings survive their first year of life. Each year when the eaglets are about 7 weeks
old they are banded. Kenneth: “Basically what we are looking
at is an age where the nestling is big enough that the band won’t slip over the knuckles
and cause problems with development, but it’s old enough to withstand of couple hours of
handling.” Kenneth: “Everything will be alright. I’m
not as scary as I look.” Joe Peddie and his wife, Marta have been protecting
and watching over this nest since February. They are part of the Arizona Bald Eagle Nest
Watch Program which began in 1978 when the US Forest Service in Arizona asked the local
Audubon Society to provide an observer to monitor and protect a single nesting pair
of eagles. Today the Arizona Bald Eagle Nest Watch Program
is coordinated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department with input from the Southwest Bald
Eagle Management Committee. The committee is represented by 25 different agencies, tribes
and organizations. As many as 16 trained observers in teams of
two, work for the entire nesting season, usually from February to June, protecting nest sites
and collecting data. Marta Peddie: “We take tons of data that
gets turned into the Game and Fish Department and they use our data to help manage the eagle
breeding areas.” *
Once at the nest he hoods the eaglet. Within minutes the eaglet falls asleep. Kenneth then puts booties on the taloned feet. Next he puts the eaglet in a padded bag and
lowers it to the ground. Once on the ground Kyle McCarty the Arizona
Game & Fish and Joe Peddie of the Arizona Bald Eagle Watch Program take over. Back at the nest, Kenneth is examining the
nest looking for egg shell fragments to check for egg shell thickness. He is also checking
for fishing line that can maim or kill the eaglet. Fishing line has been found in two-thirds
of the bald eagle nests in Arizona. Joe Peddie: “What we have here is a monofilament
recovery tube. We try to install them at all of our watersheds and at all our of recreation
areas. Monofilament is a big, big program, ah when it’s on the shoreline for not just
eagles but for a lot of other birdlife. They will get entangled in it, fly to a tree get
entangled more, so they will perish that way. The eagles may carry it to the nest attached
to a forage item and then it gets into the nest and causes issues. So it is incumbent
on fishermen and outdoors people who really enjoy the recreation aspect of being up here
to use these.” The eaglet’s ankles are measured to determine
gender. The females have thicker ankles than the males. This eaglet is a female. Since
she’s just started getting her feathers, it is determine that she is about 5 weeks
old. An identifying band is attached to each ankle. Kyle McCarty: “There we go. It just fits.
It’s definitely a big leg.” Next they measure her beak. Kyle McCarty: “Twenty-eight.” Then she is weighed. Kyle McCarty: ”It looks like 3.4.” Joe Peddie: “Six pounds and a little more.” Kyle McCarty: ”Yah that’s kilograms there.” Joe Peddie:”Pretty big for five weeks.” Blood is drawn to obtain a DNA sample. Kyle McCarty: “We’re taking some blood.
We have someone who’s doing a study between blood and feather DNA to see if in the future
we can just use feathers instead of blood for DNA analysis.” Since 1971 the Bald Eagle population in Arizona
has grown from 4 nesting pairs to over 55 nesting pairs. Much of that success is due
to the dedicated Bald Eagle nest watchers. Throughout the years the Nest Watchers have
rendered emergency assistance to birds in distress. In 1984 alone they saved nine eaglets
from a variety of emergencies. For example, in 1984 nest watchers stopped a bulldozer
from toppling a tree with young in the nest. Also that year, nest watchers alerted the
Arizona Game and Fish Rescue Team who then [k1]plucked young chicks from a nest that
was in the path of floodwaters. These chicks were placed in the empty nest of another pair
of eagles, and later fledged successfully. At another site some eaglets had fallen from
their nest and the nest watchers alerted officials so that they could put them back into the
nest. The nine rescued eaglets represented 60% of Arizona’s eagle production that year. During critical nesting times, typically from
December to June, if you wish to observe bald eagles be sure to do so from outside closures.
These areas are posted with signs or buoys, and many have daily nest watch monitors. Anyone
approached by a nest watcher and asked to cease an activity or leave a closed area should
comply. Bald eagles protecting an active nest will
let you know if you are too close. If a bald eagle is vocalizing and circling the area
frantically, you are too close and need to leave the area quickly. After being banded, measured and weighed the
eaglet is put back in the bag and makes its trip back to the nest. The parents will return in about half an hour This young eagle will begin flying in about
7 weeks and will be off on her own about a month after that. Joe and Marta will again watch over the nest
until she flies north on her migration. Her parents will fly away to other hunting areas
in Arizona. The birds travel great distances but usually
return to the breeding grounds within 100 miles of the place where they were raised. Kenneth removes the hood and booties Kenneth Jacobson:“You keep eating and you
fly. Fly here in about 6 weeks and have a long, prosperous life.” The he descends back to the ground. The nest watch program proves that there’s
no substitute for living with bald eagles to best protect them. So this eaglet may very well have a nest nearby
in about 5 years when she has a mate and starts laying eggs.  Because of the support of many agencies including
the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arizona Game & Fish Department and the U.S. Forest
Service as well as the onsite protection provided by the Arizona Bald Eagle Nest Watch Program,
Bald Eagles in Arizona have made a tremendous recovery. But there is much more that needs to be done.
For more information on how you can help go to www.swbemc. Or email [email protected]  

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