Bald eagle population rebounding, but low, in Miss.

Published 6:50 pm Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The bald eagle population across the country may be making a recovery, but Mississippi remains a less likely place to spot a pair, a scientist says.

Mick Winstead, an ornithologist with the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, said the state has about 45 active nests. That’s low compared to other states.

Winstead attributes Mississippi’s low count of bald eagles to the lack of a systematic survey and the limited amount of wetlands for the birds to nest.

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In June, the bald eagle was removed from the U.S. government’s list of protected species because its population has increased more than 20 times since the 1960s.

Bald eagle nests can mostly be found along the Delta and coastal wetlands because they primarily eat fish, Winstead said.

The state population has increased from three pairs in 1990 to 31 pairs in 2006, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

The populations have been growing steadily since 1972 when the insecticide DDT was banned, Winstead said. Winstead said DDT was the bird’s main killer, but hunting also played a part in that.

A typical pair hatches between one and three eggs in a season, Winstead said.

In 1967, the bird was listed as endangered. The birds continue to be protected by a 1940 federal law making it illegal to kill a bald eagle.