New York Natural Heritage Program
Bald Eagle
Haliaeetus leucocephalus (Linnaeus, 1766)

Threats [-]
While Bald Eagle breeding and non-breeding populations are increasing in New York, there are still significant threats to the persistence of this species in the state. Habitat loss or alterations are probably the most significant threats. Many parts of New York are under high development pressure. This species prefers relatively undisturbed, wooded areas near wetlands or large bodies of water with abundant prey (fish). Areas with development or other human disturbances would likely be unsuitable for nesting and wintering Bald Eagles. Habitat destruction has been more extensive in the Bald Eagle wintering range (Nye 1994). Disturbance to wintering birds can be especially detrimental because it may deplete the birds' energy reserves. Bald Eagles spend most of the winter sedentary (approximately 99%); energy is reserved for foraging, feeding, thermoregulation, and other essential activities (Nye 1994). Depleted energy may result in a drop in an individual's reproductive rate for the year, or death (Nye 1994). In addition, if a feeding bald eagle is disturbed it may abandon its food and most likely will not return to the area for the rest of the day. Banning DDT has greatly increased the reproductive health of bald eagles, but there are many other contaminants that continue to affect the reproductive success of adult pairs such as lead, mercury, and PCBs. Other threats include vehicular collisions (such as high speed trains), and collisions with towers, wind generators, and electrical lines (McGowan and Corwin 2008 and Nye 2005).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices [-]
Human disturbances should be minimized at breeding and wintering sites. Pedestrians can be more disturbing to Bald Eagles than some motorized vehicles (Nye 1994). A 500 meter buffer around the nest may be adequate (NatureServe 2005). A minimum buffer of 250-300 meters is recommended for perch and feeding sites; others have recommended a greater distance (Nye 1994). It may be beneficial to post signs and restrict access to areas when breeding or wintering Bald Eagles are present. Vegetative buffer zones may help minimize some disturbances associated with development (Nye 1994). Avoid the addition of new, tall structures such as wind-generators, towers, and electrical lines near breeding and wintering locations.

Research Needs [-]
Determine the essential Bald Eagle breeding and wintering habitats through field observations and radio telemetry. Collect more data about site fidelity, familial relationships to habitat use, migratory patterns/pathways, and home ranges of breeding and wintering Bald Eagles in New York. Sample for contaminant loads periodically (Nye 2005).