Banded bald eagle recovered near Vincennes

Allisyn Gillet, state ornithologist, DNR Fish & Wildlife

A banded bald eagle recovered near Vincennes gave DNR personnel a chance to measure the success of bald eagle reintroduction in Indiana over the past 20 years.

On Sept. 30, a wild bird rehabilitator responding to a call about an injured bald eagle arrived to find the bird deceased. A closer look revealed that the eagle wore two bands – one on each leg – inscribed with numbers and a letter. After the bands were reported to ReportBand.gov and DNR state ornithologist Allisyn Gillet was contacted, parts of the eagle’s history were revealed.

Bald eagle H81 was banded as a nestling at Hovey Lake Fish & Wildlife Area on April 20, 1998. That year, DNR biologists were closely tracking nesting eagles to monitor how the population was growing after the successful bald eagle reintroduction program.

Bald eagles were listed as endangered when Indiana began its reintroduction program in 1985. The program took place over five years, when 73 young eagles were released at Monroe Lake to form the base of a new population of nesting eagles. After these birds grew up and returned to nest in Indiana, biologists kept track of the number of nests and the number of young in each nest. Nestling eagles were given a set of leg bands so they could be identified in the future.

The year H81 was born, Indiana had 11 successful eagle nests, and 20 eaglets survived long enough to leave the nest. Indiana’s eagle population has been steadily growing, and in 2019, over 300 bald eagle nests were reported.

Bald eagles were removed from the federal list of endangered species in 2007 and from the state list in 2008. Although this was the first time that H81 was reported since she was banded 21 years ago, it is likely that she was nesting in this area for years, possibly on the Wabash or the White River south of Vincennes. The clean water and healthy numbers of fish in these rivers provide a home to many pairs of nesting eagles each year.

The bald eagle reintroduction program was the first endangered species restoration project initiated by DNR Nongame and Endangered Wildlife staff. This project and ongoing research would not be possible without donations to the Indiana Nongame Wildlife Fund, the main funding source of all nongame and endangered species research and management.

Those interested in donating to the Indiana Nongame Wildlife Fund can donate online at on.IN.gov/nongamewildlifefund.

For more information about bald eagles, see wildlife.IN.gov/3383.htm.

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