The bald eagle was recently removed from the federal endangered species list. Missourians have done their share in preserving the nation's living symbol - many regions of the state have good habitat for nesting, and eagles have been spotted statewide.
Missouri Conservation Department Ornithologist Andy Forbes conducts regular counts of bald eagle nests to track the once-troubled species' progress. As recently as 1981, Missouri did not have a single productive bald eagle nest. This year's count topped 150. "That is a minimum," Forbes notes. "We can't find all the nests in a particular year, and the number just keeps growing. Last year's count showed 120."
State officials no longer attempt to find all bald eagle nests. Instead, they track the success of those already known and those reported by citizens or discovered in the course of other wildlife management activities. This gives the Conservation Department a way of discovering nesting problems or a decline in nest numbers.
The bald eagle's recovery in Missouri, as in the rest of the nation, is the result of two main factors. One is the banning of DDT, a broad-spectrum insecticide that reduced nesting success of birds of prey. The other factor is a reduction in the illegal killing of eagles.
Peggy Horner, MDC Endangered Species coordinator, says the agency is now considering several species - including the bald eagle - for delisting. "We are in the initial stages of considering whether the bald eagle should be a candidate for delisting," Horner says. "When that happens, the public and other government agencies will have opportunities to comment."