Raptors To Be Released During Eagle-Watching Event

Bald Eagle Nests Across State Have Reached Record Highs, 2018 Count Shows

bald eagle, calls, iowa, branch
A bald eagle calls out as it sits on a branch atop a tree overlooking the Raccoon River, in November 2018 at Water Works Park in Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

Raptor fans can catch sight of one adult and two immature eagles planned for release into the wild after a period of rehabilitation during the 32nd annual Bald Eagle Watching Days.

The eagles’ release will be led by Marge Gibson from the Antigo-based Raptor Education Group at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, in the VFW Park as one of several activities scheduled during the two-day event. Most of the other Bald Eagle Watching Days events take place at the River Arts Center in Prairie Du Sac.

The Sauk Prairie area, in which Prairie Du Sac is located, is home to the largest concentration of wintering bald eagles in the Midwest, said Barb Barzen, who works for the Driftless Area Land Conservancy in Dodgeville.

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As it turns out, bald eagles are faring well all across Wisconsin, which has seen an overall rise in the number of bald eagle nests, according to a recent press release from the state Department of Natural Resources. A 2018 survey found that the number of bald eagle nests across the state is record-setting at 1,695 — 105 more than the number of nests in 2017.

“Even when you think the inn is full in this state, the eagles are increasing like crazy,” Barb Barzen said, noting that the highest concentrations are found in Oneida and Vilas counties with 326 nests last summer, one of the highest concentrations in North America.

But bald eagle surveys across the state revealed the biggest increase of nests was seen in the southwest, with a 30 percent hike over last year.

Densities of nests, which refer to the number of nests per unit area, are highest in Crawford and Grant counties near the Mississippi River, said Jeb Barzen, wildlife biologist who has directed field ecology at the International Crane Foundation.

That’s probably because there’s plenty of food for the otherwise territorial raptors, Jeb Barzen postulated.

“It’s presumed that they have a high enough food density that they can provision their young and so their territories don’t need to be as large and you can actually have a very high density of nests that are on that Mississippi River,” he said.

The nests can be 1,000 pounds or more, and eagles begin building them or refurbishing them in the fall. A pair of eagles in Decorah, Iowa have been witnessed on the eagle cam to add about 200 pounds of sticks to their nest every year, Barb Barzen said.

Bald eagles like to create their nests near water and in tall trees, giving them a wide view of their surroundings.

At one of the events on Saturday, participants can visit downtown Prairie Du Sac and watch eagles at the Overlook through scopes set up in the public parking lot off of Water Street. Volunteers will be on hand to answer questions.

Eagle-watching tours will run on school buses every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday.

“The purpose of that is to not only relay a lot of information about eagles but also to show people where the three hot spots for watching eagles are in their community, so that if they want to come back on their own, they know where to go,” Bard said.

Only one event is scheduled for Friday evening; at 7 p.m. Naturalist David Stokes will present a high-energy program featuring live animals in “Laughing with the Animals.”

If you’re planning on attending the eagle release, consider parking in the streets nearby or at the River Arts Center and take one of two buses that can hold 50 people each to the site.

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