The 2018-2019 Bald Eagle nesting season is well underway in Florida. This comeback species was once on the brink of extinction in the 1970s, in large part due to the use of the pesticide DDT. Now, Florida is home to one of the largest populations of Bald Eagles in the U.S. Protected and monitored by Audubon EagleWatch, this community science effort supplies researchers and policymakers with critical data on the Florida eagle population.
After Hurricane Irma destroyed several nests in 2017, Audubon EagleWatchers excitedly reported that most eagles went on to successfully rebuild and raise young. Then, right as the nesting season began this year, several nests were destroyed when Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle. Despite significant damage to the region’s forests, preliminary reports indicate that impacted eagles are beginning to rebuild. Eagle pairs mate for life and typically use the same nest year after year. One pair that lost their nest in Gulf County started from scratch after the storm and are already incubating eggs! Nests are huge structures that can weigh as much as a ton and represent a lot of effort to build. As a result, losing a nest is a big loss, and replacing one quickly is no small feat.
A changing climate threatens Bald Eagles with more extreme weather and warmer temperatures. With trees snapped in half after storms and Florida’s rapid pace of development, Bald Eagles and other species struggle to locate suitable places to nest. Florida’s eagles time their nesting to coincide with the increased availability of fish and waterfowl prey during winter. Warming temperatures may disrupt these ecological cycles, causing changes in the food chain that may reduce prey sources.
The importance of Audubon EagleWatch and other community science programs are crucial as Florida prepares for the future impacts of climate change. You can help ensure the long-term success of Bald Eagles and other birds by getting involved with Audubon. Go to FL.Audubon.org/GetInvolved to learn more!
Did You Know? Private and Public Lands Have Roles in Combatting Climate Change?
As temperatures warm, seas rise, and precipitation changes alter habitats, Florida must use a combination of public and private lands to combat the effects of a changing climate. Both private and public land conservation provide significant benefits to human and wildlife communities by reducing urban sprawl and the negative impacts of development.
Guided by experience and science, Audubon supports incentives needed for enlisting private lands in the public service of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Proven examples of incentive-based strategies include the Florida Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, Dispersed Water Management (“water farming”), Rural Land Stewardship, Transferable Development Rights, U.S. Farm Bill Conservation Programs, and Habitat Conservation Planning under the Endangered Species Act. These kinds of programs offer big conservation at minimal public expense, while respecting the rights of private property owners.