A record-setting number of American bald eagles was reported during the annual Illinois Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey coordinated by the Illinois Audubon Society.
Volunteers tallied 5,975 birds between the dates of Jan. 1 and Jan. 15.
Extremely cold temperatures in northern parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin caused a surge in numbers of over-wintering birds along the Illinois waterways. Survey routes are located on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, with additional routes on the Ohio and Wabash rivers, Crab Orchard Lake, Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area and Carlyle Lake.
According to Tom Clay, the society’s executive director, “our 2014 survey surpassed 2013 (2,325 total) and topped the highest recorded count (since 1992) of 4,292 reported in 2008.”
The largest populations of eagles spotted were counted along the Mississippi River (93.6 percent of the overall total), followed by 4.4 percent observed on the Illinois River and 2 percent sighted on the remaining routes. The number of adults versus immature eagles reported on these surveys, an important indicator of recovery and survival, remains at 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively.