Periodic Status Review for the Bald Eagle (2024)


Published: February 2024

Pages: 19

Author(s): Joseph B. Buchanan

Executive Summary

The recovery of the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) across North America is a major success story in the history of wildlife conservation in the United States. When the species was listed as Endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1978, the primary reason for its imperiled status was the effects of chemical contaminants and, to a lesser extent, habitat loss. Protection measures have allowed Bald Eagles to make an incredible recovery within Washington and nationally, which led to its federal delisting in 2007.

Although Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) no longer monitors Bald Eagle abundance, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) conducted extensive surveys across much of the United States outside Alaska in 2009 and generated an estimated population of 72,434 Bald Eagles. Based on surveys conducted in 2018-2019, the USFWS updated their estimate to 316,700 Bald Eagles of all age classes, a population estimate over four times greater than in 2009. In 2015, the total number of known territories in Washington was 1,334, reflecting the cumulative number of territories over time and not the number that were known to be active in any particular year. Bald Eagles are well distributed in Washington and are strongly associated with marine environments and nearly all major waterways, inland lakes, and reservoirs; Bald Eagles are most abundant west of the Cascade Range.

Factors known to have impacted Bald Eagles include chemical contaminants and the absence of adequate regulations. With the restrictions placed on the use of DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) and the decline in use of other environmental contaminants the Bald Eagle population has rebounded, despite contaminants that remain in the environment. Remaining threats to Bald Eagles are minor and current analyses indicate that the population continues to grow.

The Bald Eagle was delisted at the state level by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2016 and the species has continued to prosper. Bald Eagles will continue to be protected under three federal laws: the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Lacey Act. Bald Eagles will continue to be classified as protected wildlife in Washington. Bald Eagles are abundant in Washington, and the species will continue to be an important and thriving part of our state’s avifauna for the foreseeable future.

This is an update of the 2016 Periodic Status Review for the Bald Eagle in Washington (Kalasz and Buchanan 2016). It has been revised primarily to update information on regional and national population trends, recent information about disease and contaminants, and its length has been reduced to improve conciseness and brevity.

Suggested citation

Buchanan, J.B. 2024. Periodic status review for the Bald Eagle. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington. 12 + iii pp.

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