Written by Bryan Watts
May 5, 2009
The 2009 breeding season represents the 54th consecutive year that the bald eagle breeding population has been surveyed in Virginia. Since 1977 when The Center for Conservation Biology and the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries took over responsibility for the survey, information pertaining to nest locations has been kept confidential due to concerns about disturbance and vandalism. In recent years as the eagle population has increased dramatically the relationship between the benefits of disclosing nests and the concern over disturbance has shifted.
For the first time in the history of the annual bald eagle survey, the location of known nests from the 2009 survey are being made available online to the public. The Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) developed the VaEagles website so that users can see where known eagle nests are located on a county by county basis. The information is being made available in the hope that the public will become more actively involved in the conservation of this species throughout Virginia. Despite researchers’ best efforts, an unknown number of eagle nests go unrecorded each year. This is particularly true in the Piedmont and mountains of Virginia where there is no survey effort. We believe that the public knows of many nests that are unknown to us. We are requesting that the public view nests in their locality and report nests that are currently not included in the annual survey.
Since the launch of the VaEagles website in early July, there has been a tremendous response by the Virginia public. The site received more than 35,000 page views in the first month including many reports of new nests. These nests are being integrated into the eagle nest database for future monitoring. In addition, the site has greatly reduced the burden of interacting with the community of consultants that work with eagle management issues on a daily basis. It is our hope that having a more informed public will result in a more open dialogue with the public about eagle management issues and lead to greater community involvement in eagle conservation.