One Flew Over the Eagle’s Nest

June 20 may have been American Eagle Day, a day that commemorates when the bald eagle became the national symbol of the United States. But there is no better day to honor bald eagles than Independence Day. And this year, we’re celebrating a particularly momentous occasion: the return of bald eagles to Ohio.

Earlier this year in April, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced that citizen scientists reported finding 707 bald eagle nests across the state.

2020 Ohio Bald Eagle Nests graphic
The citizen scientist census found the largest number of nests in northern Ohio. Graphic courtesy Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“The results show an increase of 151% from the 2012 census, when 281 nests were recorded in Ohio,” Ohio Department of Natural Resources said in a press release. “The high number of nests represents the hard work and dedication put forth for Ohio’s wildlife.”

Ohio Department of Natural Resources goes on to say the Ohio Division of Wildlife received approximately 2,500 reports from the public for the 2020 census. Wildlife staff, including wildlife officers and biologists, verified nest locations in 85 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

The highest number of bald eagle nests were in counties along Lake Erie because of the abundance of food and nesting habitat that can be found along the lake shoreline.

Bald eagle
Great Parks staff spotted a bald eagle over Winton Lake in March 2019.

Three nests in Hamilton County is triple the amount of bald eagle nests that were recorded in 2012, with only one nest being reported eight years ago. But if you look closely, you may be able to spot a bald eagle next time you’re exploring a Great Park. In recent years, bald eagles have been seen at Mitchell Memorial Forest and Winton Woods, among other parks. They’ve also been seen perched high in trees along the Whitewater River corridor.

While bald eagles were once considered an endangered species (There were only four nesting pairs total in the entire state of Ohio in 1979!), 707 nests across the state means the bald eagle is making a comeback. The work and conservation efforts that the Ohio Division of Wildlife, zoos, wildlife rehabilitation facilities and many others have put forth have helped bald eagles shed their endangered species status. Bald eagles were removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007 and from Ohio’s list in 2012, Ohio Department of Natural Resources said.

Bald eagle
Another bald eagle was seen in Winton Woods in March 2020.

You can keep an eagle eye out for this national symbol on your next park excursion. The best places to spot a bald eagle in southern Ohio and Hamilton County are along major rivers, as eagles prefer to live close to waterways. And, soaring high in the sky, of course. Nature Interpreter Amy tells more about how bald eagles establish their territory and build their giant nests here.

Great Parks of Hamilton County and Ohio Department of Natural Resources want to remind you the best way to enjoy bald eagles is through passive observation. Bald eagles are protected under both state law and the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. When viewing these majestic birds, remember to respect the eagle’s space and stay at least 100 yards away from the bird or nest.

Caroline Wiita
Content Marketing Coordinator

Information for this article gathered from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.