Researcher finds Louisiana eagles cool off in Canada

Louisiana’s bald eagles do what many south Louisiana residents would like to do during the hot months of summer: They head north.

In fact, bald eagles that winter in the state head far north during the summer, making it all the way to Canada.

That’s relatively new information that will be shared by LSU graduate student and graduate research assistant Nick Smith during a Baton Rouge Audubon Society meeting to be held 7 p.m. Thursday at the Bluebonnet Swamp Center.

Bald eagles have made an impressive come back over the last few decades in Louisiana. In 1975 there were only seven documented active nests in the state. By 2008, that number had increased to 387 active nests.

“It’s pretty amazing the recovery,” Smith said. Although eagles are found all over the state, there is still a concentration of the birds in southeast Louisiana. Many factors play into why that occurred, including that it is believed bald eagles return to nest in the area where they were born. Since the remaining bald eagles in the state were in southeast Louisiana in 1975, it would make sense that the concentration would remain.

At the same time, Smith said, “We’re still seeing nests spread out throughout Louisiana in 38 different parishes.”

Smith will also talk about ongoing research where he’s attached satellite GPS systems to a number of bald eagles to track where they go in the summer. The first year in 2012, he found that all 10 bald eagles he was tracking flew to Canada. Most stayed between a month and four months, he said. However, one bird stayed only five days before turning around and heading back to Louisiana.

“This study was new information for these birds,” Smith said. “It surprised a lot of people in how far they travelled north.”

Attendance at the meeting is free for Baton Rouge Audubon members, $3 for nonmembers and $2.50 for nonmember seniors.

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter @awold10.