Status and Ecology of Bald Eagles Wintering in Oklahoma

Aerial and gronnd censuses of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) wintering in Oklahoma indicate a minimum population in midwinter of almost 600 eagles. The northern bald eagle (H. l. alascanus) is the primary subspecies found in Oklahoma. Eagles generally begin arriving in October, their populations peak in January, and most have departed by mid March. The largest concentrations ofeagIes are located along the SaIt Fork River near Salt Plains National Wildlife Rehlge (NWR), at Grand Lake, in Osage and Texas Counties, at the Wichita Mountains NWR and Sequoyah NWR, and at Keystone, Tenkiller, Eufaula, and Fort Gibson Reservoirs. Fourteen communal roosts were found. Cottonwoods (Populus deltoides) are the main roost tree species. Sixty-four percent ofthese roosts are on private property. Fourteen percent of the roosts are threatened by human disturbance and their future is considered precarious. In the intensive study area, Canada geese (Branta canadensis), cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus, S. auduboni), and gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) were the main food items. Shooting was the main mortality factor for these eagles, however, the small numbers presently known shot do not represent a threat to the stabilty of the entire population. A management plan is presented that recommends managing roost trees to insure tree replacement, protecting roosts from human disturbance, and an annual census.

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