Photo: Pat Bell (Flickr)
The mild winter weather across Indiana is causing a decline in the number of bald eagles that typically migrate to the state.
The State of Indiana Division of Fish and Wild Life has been working with the eagles since the 1980s to try and restore their nesting population. Typically Department of Natural Resources bird biologist John Castrale says there is a large influx of eagles during the winter months because of Indiana’s latitude. The water at places like Lake Monroe and Patoka Lake stays relatively warm throughout the winter.
“They usually start arriving sometimes in November, early December and will stay here for the most part until about Mid-March,” Castrale says. “Then they move to their breeding areas in the Great Lake States and Canada.”
The number of bald eagles can vary dramatically from year to year, depending on the severity of the winter and the availability of open water.
“Winters that are fairly mild like this one we probably won’t get as many birds in the state as in a more serve winter because they tend to stay up North,” Castrale says. “If there is open water, they will stay up North and feed on the fish and water file there.”
But when those lakes freeze the birds will head further south. Within Indiana, there are about 140 pairs of eagles that live in the state year round. They have been taken off the federal as well as the state list for extinction. Their numbers continue to increase yearly.