Bald eagles can be found in good numbers on Tennessee NWR both during the nesting and migration periods. These magnificent birds, the symbol of America’s freedom and pride, are typically found along the Tennessee River and in some of the larger impoundments on the Refuge because of the abundant prey near water bodies.
Many eagles can be spotted roosting or nesting on top of large trees throughout the Refuge. Each year many bald eagles establish nests and successfully raise young on the refuge. Currently there are over 10 active nests on the Tennessee NWR. Bald eagles construct platform nests that they return to each spring. Eagle nests increase in size each year due to the addition of new materials. Some nests may grow to weigh several tons and span more than ten feet wide.
Eagles are monogamous, mate for life, and give great parental care to the newborn “eaglets” by both parents. This is very advantageous to the young eaglets because both parents share in incubation, hunting for prey, and keeping a careful watch over the nest.
Some of the largest densities of bald eagles on the Refuge occur during the winter. Bald eagles will congregate near open water in tall trees for spotting prey and to night roost for shelter. One winter over 94 bald eagles were counted during one survey.
The recovery of bald eagle populations is one of the greatest successes in wildlife management in history. Historically, loss of nesting habitat, over harvest, and decreased nest success linked to a pesticide known as “DDT” reduced the population to only 417 breeding pairs in 1963. Through protection under the endangered species act, the banning of DDT in 1972, and nationwide conservation efforts, current populations in the lower 48 states have increased 25-fold and number to some 10,000 nesting pairs.
Because bald eagle populations have successfully recovered, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the bald eagle from the federal list of endangered and threatened species on June 28, 2007. Monitoring efforts will continue by many interested in the conservation of our national symbol with a goal of keeping these magnificent birds soaring higher than ever!
Other Birds of Prey
Tennessee NWR is host to many different species of raptors. Some of the most notable sightings of raptors include the bald eagle, golden eagles, osprey, coopers hawk, turkey vultures, and red-tailed hawks. Raptors are birds of prey because of their predatory nature of feeding on other animals. These superior hunters are equipped with excellent sensory abilities such as binocular vision and powerful hearing for prey detection. Their large hooked talons and sharply hooked bill are ideal to capture and tear their prey.
Raptors are classified as either nocturnal or diurnal. Diurnal raptors generally hunt prey during the daytime and include eagles, falcons, and kites. Owls are the predominant raptors that hunt at night. Nonetheless, many raptors locate prey opportunistically, regardless of the time of day. Tennessee NWR is a wonderful place to explore for all types of raptors, please come and see how many you can find.