(WVUE) - A state survey finds bald eagle pairs that attempted to raise eaglets in South Louisiana this spring succeeded 97 percent of the time.
"Its one of the best conservation stories of any animal that was on the endangered species list," said Michael Seymour, non-game ornithologist for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Once numbering just a few eagle pairs statewide, Seymour estimates there are at least 350 active nests today and probably significantly more.
An aerial survey in recent months identified 599 nests in Southeastern and South Central Louisiana. However, Seymour said eagle pairs often build multiple nests in their lifetimes, but utilize only one of them, usually for several seasons in a row.
Of 64 active nests surveyed a second time by helicopter, Wildlife and Fisheries staff members counted 62 as being successful. They define success as a nest with at least one eaglet surviving to eight weeks.
Eagle populations have recovered dramatically since the bird was listed as "critically endangered" in the 1970s. In part, biologists site a ban on the pesticide DDT, which was blamed for thinning the egg shells in bald eagle nests and causing the adults to crush their eggs.
Throughout the lower 48 states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are nearly 10,000 nesting pairs of eagles.
In the Southeastern U.S., only Florida's population outnumbers the Louisiana birds.
This spring, neighbors in Metairie were astounded when a bald eagle pair built a nest in the oak tree of a back yard.
While the vast majority of eagles build their nests in cypress trees in Louisiana, Seymour said the eagles probably found the Metairie setting attractive because of the tall tree and abundant food sources nearby.
"I strongly suspect we're going to have more yard-nesting eagles in the future."