Bird watchers taking part in the U.S. Forest Service's final bald eagle count of the winter season weren't disappointed, spotting 12 bald eagles around the Inland Empire, rangers said Monday.
The 39th annual winter census to estimate the number of eagles that migrated to Riverside and San Bernardino counties since November ended Saturday with bird watching expeditions at Lake Hemet, Lake Perris, Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear Lake, Lake Gregory and Silverwood Lake.
According to USFS spokeswoman Gerrelaine Alcordo, a pair of adult eagles were seen at Lake Hemet, while two juvenile and three adult eagles were spied soaring around Big Bear Lake, with a pair of juveniles over Silverwood Lake, and two adults and one juvenile at Lake Arrowhead.
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The eagles will begin journeying back north as winter fades, according to rangers.
Eagles generally nest in the lakeside areas from late November to early April. Radio tracking devices attached to some birds show that, in a given year, they can migrate to the region from as far north as Alberta, Canada.
Because of hunting and habitat destruction, the American bald eagle was nearly driven to extinction in the past century. The birds were declared endangered in the 1970s. However, with some 10,000 breeding pairs identified across the continental U.S., they were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007.
The Forest Service depends on volunteers, or "citizen scientists," to assist with eagle counts. The next census will begin in December.