This annual event is a joint
effort by conservation agencies and organizations to increase public involvement
and awareness concerning bald eagles and other raptors.
Bald eagles are found only in North America. The bald eagle is the
symbol of our nation, chosen because of its majestic and graceful appearance and its aura
of power and wildness. When we realized that the bald eagle was rapidly disappearing
because of human activities, a nationwide outpouring of support began to save the species.
Such support was instrumental in the passage of the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940.
Protection and recovery of rare species were strengthened with the passage of the
Endangered Species Act in 1973. The bald eagle is not only our national symbol, but also a
symbol of our ability to save and conserve species.
Native American name for Bald Eagle is anúnkasan.
Check back later this fall for information about the 2016 event.
Bald eagles usually mate for life. Nests are
typically built in tall trees near water. Nests may be enormous, since they are
often used for many years. The female lays one to four eggs, with two being the
most common clutch size. Eggs hatch after a 35-day incubation. The smallest
chick may die if food is scarce. Both parents care for the chicks, which stay in
the nest for 10 to 11 weeks. Bald eagles do not attain adult plumage (white head and tail, dark body) until four or five years old.
Food: In most areas, fish are the bald eagle's primary food,
but waterfowl and rabbits are also important. Carrion is an important food source in the
winter. Bald eagles that winter along the Missouri River in South Dakota rely heavily on
dead, sick, or crippled waterfowl and on fish killed as they pass through the dams.
Bald eagles usually inhabit forested areas near
rivers, lakes, and seashores. Two hundred to three hundred bald eagles winter in South
Dakota. Most of them concentrate near downstream areas of Missouri River dams, where they
roost in remnant cottonwood forests. Bald eagles also winter in the Black Hills. Migrating
bald eagles might be seen anywhere in the state.
Winter Roost Sites:
A winter roost site can be a stand of
large trees near a river or a valley with large trees that opens out toward a river. Both
roost types offer protection from cold winds and from human disturbance. Many roost sites
in South Dakota and throughout the nation are threatened by housing and marina
South Dakota's Breeding Population:
Breeding bald eagles have
returned to South Dakota on their own as the continent's population has expanded. A pair
unsuccessfully attempted to nest at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in both 1992 and
1993. The first successful nest in more than a century was located at Karl Mundt National
Wildlife Refuge in 1993. More than fifty active nests were found in South Dakota in 2010.