Haliaeetus leucocephalus    (Linnaeus, 1766)

Bald Eagle 

MN Status:
Federal Status:


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Minnesota range map
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North American range map
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  Basis for Former Listing

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is widespread throughout Canada and portions of the United States, and two races are recognized. The northern race ranges throughout Alaska, most of Canada (except the Archipelago and Hudson Bay lowlands), and across the northern United States from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes and Maine coast. The southern race is found from the Delaware Bay south to Florida and west along the Gulf Coast. Formerly, the Bald Eagle also ranged across southern California and the southwestern United States. The decline of the Bald Eagle over its entire range in the contiguous 48 states has been well documented. Environmental contamination by DDT was the primary cause of the decline, and the mechanism was the accumulation of DDT residues in fish, the major food of Bald Eagles. Since the banning of DDT in the United States in 1972, Bald Eagle populations have increased nationwide.

In pre settlement times, the Bald Eagle nested throughout Minnesota, including along large prairie rivers and bigger lakes in the southern half of the state. In recognition of the pre-1972 population decline, the Bald Eagle was listed as threatened in Minnesota when the first state endangered species list was created in 1984. The species had already been added to the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 1978. The Northern States Bald Eagle Recovery Plan This link leads to an external site. established a goal of 300 occupied breeding territories in Minnesota. This goal was surpassed in 1987 when 350 occupied breeding areas were documented. Both the numbers and the range of Bald Eagles have continued to expand in Minnesota. By 1994, the number of known occupied territories in the state was 615. Consequently, the status of the Bald Eagle under the state endangered species law was changed from threatened to special concern in 1996.

  Basis for Delisting

Although the majority of Bald Eagles are found in the forested, northern half of the state and along the St. Croix and Lower Mississippi rivers, the species has begun to reoccupy much of its former range in the southern half of Minnesota in recent years. A statewide Known Nest Survey in 2005 located 872 active nests. By combining the results of the Known Nest Survey with data from a survey of random plots, an estimate of 1,312 +/-220) active nests was derived (Baker and Monstad 2005). Among the 50 states, Minnesota has the third largest Bald Eagle breeding population, following Alaska and Florida. Data from the 2005 surveys provided support for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to remove the Bald Eagle from the federal list of threatened and endangered species. The Bald Eagle was subsequently delisted on August 9, 2007. However, Bald Eagles and their nests are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Due to continued population increases, expansion of its range and adaptation to human disturbance, the Bald Eagle was delisted in Minnesota in 2013.

  References and Additional Information

Baker, R. J., and Y. A. Monstad. 2005. 2005 Minnesota Bald Eagle surveys. Nongame Wildlife Program, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Report. 4 pp.

Baker, R., J. Galli, and S. Nelson. 2000. 2000 Minnesota Bald Eagle survey. Nongame Wildlife Program, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Report. 2 pp.

Buehler, D. A. 2000. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Number 506 in A. Poole and F. Gill, editors. The birds of North America. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Grier, J.W. and J.E. Guinn. 2003. Bald eagle habitats and responses to human disturbances in Minnesota. Final report submitted to the Natural Heritage and Nongame Research Program, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 48 pp.

Kussman, J. V. 1977. Post-fledging behavior of the northern Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, in the Chippewa National Forest, Minnesota. Ph.D. Dissertation., University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2012. Statement of need and reasonableness. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Division of Ecological and Water Resources. St. Paul, Minnesota. 337 pp.

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