CONCORD — Wildlife watchers who participated in the New Hampshire portion of the 2018 National Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey located 97 bald eagles during a two-week count period in January. The statewide effort was coordinated by New Hampshire Audubon in collaboration with the NH Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. “This year’s count marked the 38th consecutive year that N.H. Audubon has coordinated the count,” said Chris Martin, a senior biologist in NH Audubon’s Conservation Department. “When we started back in January 1981, the state's wintering bald eagle population was at the lowest of lows.” In 1982, count participants located just two bald eagles statewide.
A total of 84 observers turned out on the official survey day to look for eagles throughout New Hampshire, from the seacoast to the Connecticut River. Observers tallied 77 eagles (46 adult birds, 29 immature birds, and 2 unknown). Another 20 eagles were found during the two-week “count period” that surrounds survey day, which yielded a total of 97 birds seen, lower than in recent years. In 2015, 110 bald eagles were counted. As for longer-term trends, aside from this year’s drop, the number of eagles counted during the mid-winter survey in New Hampshire has been nearly doubling every 10 years. “In 2017, the bald eagle was removed from the State Threatened and Endangered Species List due to their remarkable recovery,” said Sandra Houghton, a biologist with NH Fish and Game's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. “Monitoring wildlife populations through efforts like this helps us evaluate the success of recovery efforts.”
The official mid-winter survey day occurs within a two-week count period, this year from January 5 to January 19. NH Audubon keeps records on the number of eagles seen during this interval, combining survey data with any additional individual birds that are distinguishably different and are seen during the week before and after, to get an overall total.
During the two-week 2018 mid-winter survey, eagles were observed in five major eagle wintering areas (and a few elsewhere): Androscoggin River: 4 bald eagles (3 adults, 1 immature) seen on count day, with no additional eagles confirmed; Connecticut River: 9 bald eagles (7 adults, 2 immatures) seen on count day with no additional eagles confirmed; Great Bay/Coastal: 29 bald eagles seen, including 18 individuals (11 adults, 5 immatures, 2 unknown age) seen on count day, plus 11 additional eagles (4 adults, 7 immatures) confirmed; Lakes Region: 20 bald eagles seen, including 16 individuals (13 adults, 3 immatures) seen on count day, plus 4 additional eagles (3 adults, 1 immature); Merrimack River: 31 bald eagles seen, including 26 individuals (10 adults, 16 immatures) seen on count day, plus 5 adult eagles confirmed during the two-week count period; Saco River/Ossipee River, and from elsewhere across New Hampshire: 4 bald eagles (2 adults, 2 immatures) seen on count day, with no additional eagles confirmed.
NH Audubon monitors bald eagle abundance and distribution throughout the state each year as part of an annual contract with the NH Fish and Game Department's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. New Hampshire’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program works with state and private partners to protect more than 400 wildlife species in New Hampshire. The program relies on federal wildlife grants, matched by private donations, Moose License Plate dollars, and a grant from the State of New Hampshire. Learn more at www.wildnh.com/nongame.
The 2018 National Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey located 97 bald eagles during a two-week count period in January, lower than in recent years. (Photo: USFWS/Steve Hillebrand)