The record numbers of occupied eagle and osprey nests that were counted in Wisconsin this year are a testament to the comeback of the two species after they were almost wiped out by pesticides, state wildlife officials said.
The results of aerial surveys released Tuesday show 1,504 occupied eagle nests — 39 more than the previous year, and 558 occupied osprey nests — 16 more than last year, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.
“The recovery of bald eagles in Wisconsin is a great conservation success story and one that more Wisconsin residents are seeing up close as eagles expand into new territories,” said Drew Feldkirchner, director of the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program.
“We’re also very pleased to see osprey numbers continue to climb and appreciate our partnership with utility companies and other partners to provide artificial nesting platforms for these birds,” Feldkirchner said.
Habitat lost to shoreline development contributed to a dramatic decline in the osprey population in Wisconsin from the 1950s to early 1970s. Now, 75 percent of Wisconsin osprey nests are built on artificial platforms erected on utility poles, cellphone towers and other tall structures.
The aerial nesting survey was completed in cooperation with DNR pilots in March and April, said Laura Jaskiewicz, the Rhinelander-based DNR research scientist who coordinates the effort.
This year, the DNR did not conduct a second aerial survey it has done in previous springs to gauge the reproductive success of breeding pairs because the raptor populations are healthy and growing and resources are being redirected to surveys of other non-game species.