The first attempt to count the number of America's bald eagles and golden eagles will take place Jan. 13-27, with thousands of federal and state wildlife officials and volunteer bird watchers scanning the skies from airplanes, boats and the ground.
In the Washington area both the upper and lower Potomac River will be srevyed as well as the shores of Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna River and reservoirs around Baltimore, according to Gary Taylor, administrator of the Maryland Wildlife Administration endangered species division. The area's only known blad eagle nesting place is on Mason Neck in Virginia.
The count, expected to be come an annual event, is being coordinated by the National Wildlife Federation and its Raptor Information Center in Vienna, which keeps track of raptorial birds -- birds of prey with talons, such as hawks, falocons and eagles.
There are an estimated 4,000 bald eagles remaining in the 48 states where the count will be focused, according to Mike Pramstaller, a Raptor official. Because the nation's symbol is plentiful in Alaska and non-existent in Hawaii, no counting will be done there, Pramstaller said. Golden eagles are rarely seen east of the Mississppi today, he said.
The count is timed to catch the wintering eagle population, not just the nesting birds that remain here in the summer. Eagles begin nesting in this area at the end of January, but those wintering around Washington and Chesapeake Bay usually do not fly north until later in the spring, according to Taylor, who is coordinating the eagle county in Maryland.
Bird clubs and outdoor groups have been invited to assist federal and state officials in the count. Taylor said last week that more support may be needed from groups in the Maryland-Virginia area. He can be reached in Annapolis at 301-269-3195. The Virginia coordinator is College of William and Mary Professor Mitchell Byrd at 804-253-4284.