Bald eagle numbers in Ohio are still good


As we wrap up celebrating Independence Day, Ohioans can rest assured that the bald eagle, a symbol of our nation, is doing well in the Buckeye State. The 2024 annual spring survey showed a robust estimate of 841 active eagle nests, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

Last year, biologists estimated 910 nests in Ohio. Although the number of estimated nests is lower in 2024, key indicators suggest that Ohio’s bald eagle population is resilient and continues to thrive. The average nest success rate, which is the number of nests that have eggs or eaglets, this year was 82%, compared to 48% in 2022 and 73% in 2023. The number of eaglets per active nest was 1.6 in 2024, which is higher than 2022 (0.8) and 2023 (1.2).

The Division of Wildlife’s 2024 bald eagle nesting survey consisted of flying five blocks, each roughly 10 square miles, to search for eagle nests in woodlots and along rivers. Two of the blocks, one near Sandusky on Lake Erie and the other over Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area in northeast Ohio, are flown every year. The other three blocks are rotated each year. In 2024, the rotating blocks were located along the Maumee River (Defiance/Henry counties), around Grand Lake St. Marys (Mercer/Auglaize counties), and around Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area (Wayne County).

Bald eagle management by the Division of Wildlife includes habitat conservation with an emphasis on wetlands and wooded river corridors, working with rehabilitators who help injured birds, and enforcing state and federal protection.

Bald eagles prosper in spaces with clean water and fish, which is their preferred diet. Lake Erie and other large bodies of water host the highest number of eagles because of easy access to food resources. All Ohioans can report a bald eagle nest at or through the HuntFish OH mobile app.

As with many of Ohio’s native wildlife species, bald eagles require specific habitat conditions to flourish. Bald eagle habitat protection and research is funded by the sale of bald eagle conservation license plates, income tax check-off donations to the Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity Fund, and sales of the Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp.

The bald eagle was once an endangered species, with only four nesting pairs in Ohio in 1979. Thanks to partnerships between the Division of Wildlife, Ohio zoos, wildlife rehabilitation facilities, concerned landowners, and conservationists its population increased. After much hard work and continued conservation, the bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007, and from Ohio’s list in 2012.

• The ODNR Division of Wildlife is asking the public to report sightings of wild turkeys and ruffed grouse this summer for its annual population surveys. Community scientists, which can be anyone in the public, are encouraged to submit observations on the Wildlife Reporting System webpage at or on the HuntFish OH mobile app.

Wildlife biologists use public sighting reports of wild turkeys and ruffed grouse observed in July and August to estimate population statuses and reproductive success. It’s important to note female turkeys and their young are most active during the summer.

Observers of wild turkeys are asked to report the number of gobblers, hens, and young turkeys (poults) seen. Information collected about ruffed grouse includes the number of adults and young viewed. Community scientists are asked to record the date and county where the observation occurred and include as many details as possible with each report. Biologists have tracked summer observations of wild turkeys since 1962 and of grouse since 1999.

Wild turkey brood surveys in 2021, 2022, and 2023 showed above average nest productivity that benefitted turkey populations after several years of below average results. The statewide average poults per hen in 2023 was 2.8, in 2022 it was 3.0, and in 2021 it was 3.1. The long-term average is 2.7 poults per hen. In 2023, turkey poult production varied slightly by region. In northeast and northwest Ohio, the index was 3.0 poults per hen. It was 2.8 in southeast Ohio, and 2.4 poults per hen in central and southwest Ohio.

Because of habitat availability, Ohio’s turkey populations are typically strongest in the eastern and southern counties. Turkey brood success is largely influenced by weather conditions, habitat, and predators. Ongoing research will help biologists better understand those factors.

Ruffed grouse are medium-sized game birds that are chicken-like in appearance. Ruffed grouse inhabit Ohio’s heavily forested regions. Grouse occur in the greatest numbers in young, regenerating forests, especially those less than 20 years old. Habitat loss has driven grouse population declines since the 1980s. In addition, susceptibility to West Nile Virus has likely caused further population declines since the early 2000s.

Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!

Ken Parrott is a retired Northmor High School Agricultural Science teacher.

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