Arizona Game and Fish takes measures to avoid disturbing bald eagles during breeding season

Dec 4, 2022, 7:15 AM
An American bald eagle flies over Mill Pond on July 29, 2018 in Centerport, New York.  (Photo by Br...
An American bald eagle flies over Mill Pond on July 29, 2018 in Centerport, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

PHOENIX  — Bald eagle mating season is here, and wildlife officials in Arizona have taken measures to avoid disturbing their habitat during a critical period for the population.

The Arizona Department of Game and Fish is temporarily closing portions of public land and water areas in the state, while pilots are instructed to maintain the FAA-recommended 2,000-foot above ground level advisory while flying the bird’s habitat.

Drones and paragliders are asked to avoid eagle habitat during breeding season, as bald eagles are sensitive to low-flying aircraft activity near their nests.

“Arizona’s bald eagles are hard at work preparing their nest for what we hope will be a productive breeding season,” Kenneth “Tuk” Jacobson, bald eagle management coordinator with AZGDF, said in a press release.

The listed areas designated on the Phoenix Sectional Aeronautical map include the Salt and Verde river drainages, Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt Lake, Alamo Lake, Chevelon Canyon Lake, Woods Canyon Lake, Lake Mary, Dogtown Reservoir and the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge.

Bald eagles like to build nests on cliffs and trees near bodies of water for easy access to hunt for fish. They typically lay eggs in January or February and are most populous in Arizona from October to March after migrating from Canada, Wyoming, Montana and other states.

“The birds nest, forage and roost at rivers and lakes that are also popular recreation spots,” Jacobson said. “That’s why we must be vigilant to help protect the birds and ensure their populations statewide continue to flourish. That success wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of outdoor recreationists who respect the closures during the breeding season.”

The 2022 breeding season included 78 young hatching and 61 reaching their first flights and becoming fledglings.

Bald eagles have rebuilt their population in Arizona and the United States after getting listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1978. The species once facing extinction was removed from the list in 2007, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service called the bald eagle an Endangered Species Act success story.

The Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee implemented through AZGDF remains diligent in protecting the apex predator and national symbol.

AZGFD advises those visiting eagles habitat to observe the birds from a distance and look for signs or buoys. Disturbed eagles will let intruders know by circling and vocalizing.

The department also recommends anglers properly discard fishing lines, as line and tackle have killed nestlings in Arizona before.

AZGFD lists specific restrictions and closures online, as well as a map of the bald eagle nest locations.

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Arizona Game and Fish takes measures to avoid disturbing bald eagles during breeding season