Saving Eagles Around the Globe

03 December 2022

Fifteen years ago, something incredible happened. The Bald Eagle was removed from the Endangered Species List after an incredible recovery. 

On the brink of extinction in 1963, with an estimated 417 breeding pairs remaining, researchers, conservationists, and people like you came together to save this iconic bird. It is one of conservation’s greatest success stories. And it is proof that we can save eagles.

While the Bald Eagle soars proudly in the skies of North America today, the situation is bleak for many of its kind. Around the world today, eagles are facing diverse threats. As apex predators, this spells disaster not only for them but also for the environments we share with them.

Whether it’s an invasive species like cheatgrass taking over the native sagebrush that Utah’s Golden Eagles rely on, or the rapidly developing wind infrastructure in South Africa encroaching on the thermals Verreaux’s Eagles use to soar—eagles today confront a number of challenges. 

IMG 7202 2For some species, the situation is dire. 

This year, our team at HawkWatch International is working to save eagles around the globe by:

  • Stabilizing Golden Eagle populations by supplementing their diet in critical habitats during the lean winter months;
  • Uncovering the causes of breeding failure in populations of the Endangered Martial Eagle;
  • Developing research-backed recommendations to protect Golden Eagles from collisions with vehicles as they scavenge for roadkill during the winter;
  • Studying the causes of the decline of one of the world’s rarest eagles, the Critically Endangered Flores-hawk Eagle;
  • And assessing the impact of new and existing wind energy developments on eagles and other large, soaring birds of prey in the Western U.S. and Africa.

From the Americas to Africa to Asia, there are threatened eagle populations that need our help. 

unnamed-1_2.jpgSince I joined the HawkWatch International team 16 years ago, I’m not sure I have seen a more dire situation for the Golden Eagle. This year was the worst in 40 years for nestling survival in Utah. Only one chick survived to the end of the nestling period for every 10 territories we surveyed!

Across the globe, what may be one of the world’s rarest eagles faces an even worse fate. With at most 240 mature adults remaining in the wild, the Flores-hawk Eagle is teetering on the edge of extinction. Collaborating with local Indonesian nonprofit the Raptor Conservation Society, my HWI colleague Dr. Megan Murgatroyd has undertaken an effort to understand the causes of their decline and, hopefully, prevent their extinction.

I know this may sound scary, and truth be told, it’s not a super positive picture for eagles.  But after my decades of experience in this field, I firmly believe that we can conserve these eagles if we just come together to do so. After all, we’ve done it before.

IMG_7163_1.jpegThe Bald Eagle’s rebound is proof that raptor research and conservation works. When conservationists sounded the alarm about the harmful effects of DDT on birds like the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon, it was long-term monitoring that helped prove the population declines. We are continuing that legacy of long-term monitoring, sounding the alarm on new population declines, so we can understand and address the cause before it’s too late. Raptor research and conservation help us to make better decisions for ourselves, raptors, and our shared environment.

This work won’t be easy. Raptor conservation rarely is. This year, we’ll log thousands of field hours and data points—with the aid of 4WD vehicles, $3,000 tracking units, and other specialized equipment—to conserve these birds, as efficiently as possible. It’s expensive but hard work that can truly make a difference. And this year, you can play a part. I hope you'll consider making a tax-deductible gift this year to help ensure eagles around the globe enjoy the same future as the Bald Eagle. All gifts will be matched, up to $25,000, through December 31, 2022, thanks to the JAKA Foundation.

Photos by: Jerry Liguori, Chris Vennum, Dustin Maloney, and Megan Murgatroyd


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This letter was written by Dr. Steve Slater, HWI's Conservation Science Director.
You can learn more about Steve here.