In the early 1970’s there were fewer than 450 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 United States, and fewer than 10 in the entire state of Colorado. The population has bounced back somewhat and in 2007 the bald eagle was removed from the list of threatened and endangered species.
Dana Bove is part of a group of volunteers that is monitoring 8 nests with nesting pairs of bald eagles in Boulder County and western Weld County.
The work of Bove and the other volunteers, augments the work done by a variety of agencies who are also monitoring the bald eagles.
“There are a number of groups that monitor all kinds of nests and birds throughout the country and Boulder County, Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. Boulder County Parks and Open Space has a great monitoring program, not just for bald and golden eagles but other raptors and all kinds of wildlife…I think most of those programs start up toward the end of January and go through mid-July, at the time when if the nests and the pairs have babies and their babies fledge from the nest, they tend to shut down those programs in July. These nests haven’t been studied in kind of the “off season” period of time, and so we wanted to see what their behaviors are like.”
Bove says prairie dog colonies providing food, and cottonwood trees offering good nesting habitat make this area a prime location for bald eagles.
“What do these birds need? When we go out and look, where might we find a bald eagle nest in this area. You look for old growth cottonwood, because they like to nest in this area and those trees. When you make plots or look at plots of where bald eagle nests are in Colorado and especially the Front Range, well, they nest along creeks and stream ways, and along borders or buffers around those zones.”
A combination of protection under the Endangered Species Act, and the banning of harmful pesticides such as DDT have paved the way for a population rebound. But Bove cautions, there are other threats to the birds in this part of Colorado.
“For eagles it’s human growth development, wildfires—especially for golden eagles and their habitat, wildfire and loss of pray from wildfire is huge.”
The volunteers will continue to monitor the bald eagles through the end of January when the other monitoring programs kick into action.