EagleWatch Monitoring Protocols

Purpose of monitoring: To collect data that will be used to better understand the needs of Florida’s bald eagle population and the threats they face.

Nest assignment and identification: Locate and visit the assigned nest(s). If you are unsure about the location, do be careful and you may wish to take a partner on the first visit if the nest appears to be in a secluded area. If you do not observe any eagles on your first visit(s) to your assigned nest, please continue to investigate the area throughout December. Keep in mind that not all eagles return to their territories at the same time, and late arrivals can still be productive.

If your nest is in a neighborhood or on private property, be considerate of the landowners. Introduce yourself if appropriate -- these individuals, if they are aware of the nests, can supply a wealth of information about historical nesting activity of the birds on their property and could be an asset to the Audubon EagleWatch program. The most successful observations have generally been those nests with whom the volunteers have established a collaborative relationship with the property owners.

It is common for several EagleWatch volunteers to be assigned to a nest. This results in a richer, denser reporting of the nest activities. Your coordinator will share any relevant information about the nest and its activities with all volunteers assigned to a specific nest.

Observation timetable: In general, the best observations are made from 7 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. or after 3:00-5:00 p.m. due to the eagles’ typical pattern of activity.

Observation methods: Bring a compass or cell phone and note directons of flight patterns; birds can become quite predictable once you’re familiar with their activities. Eagles typically have a favorite tree close to the nest upon which they perch and maintain vigilent guard over their nestlings. Use binoculars to scan the area to see if birds are present. FWC Guidelines advise that no activity take place within 330 feet of the nest during nesting season. It may be necessary to observe even further away to avoid disturbing the birds. In some cases, particularly urban nests, it is possible that your observation site is closer than 330 feet. But do NOT do anything to upset the birds if the nest appears active (fresh branches added, lots of feces underneath, both adults in area). If the birds flee and vocalize, they are disturbed and you must make your observations from a more distant point.

Key Observations:

Once eggs have been laid, you can expect to find one of the parents on the nest at all times. Record and report when they start incubating. This is characterized by one adult sitting in the middle of the nest. Incubation lasts for about 35 days; both parents share in the incubating of the eggs.

Try to determine when the eggs hatch and report this date. Egg(s) have hatched if adults are seen bringing food to the nest, tearing it up and feeding it to the young eagles. It can take up to two weeks before you might actually see the eaglets. Once eggs have hatched, for the next several weeks, one eagle will be at the nest at all times.

It is very important to report when the eaglets fledge (leave the nest). Fledging is preceded by branching for 7-10 days.

Check your nest after a bad storm. If an eaglet has fallen from the nest, they may need to be rescued and taken for treatment. Call your local EagleWatch Coordinator immediately. Program our phone numbers into your cell phone now so that you have them! You should also call The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland Florida (see What to Do If You Find a Sick or Injured Raptor) for more information.

Possible violations of the Bald Eagle Management Act: The regulations regarding potentially detrimental activities around an eagle nest are extensive and complex. EagleWatch volunteers are not expected to “enforce” or otherwise engage in discussions with potential violators. However, it is important that all EagleWatch volunteers become familiar with the protections afforded by state and federal laws in order to bring possible violations to the attention of the appropriate authorities.

Emergencies: In the event of an emergency nest situation (i.e., violations of the federal or state laws
protecting the eagles and their nest sites, or if the eaglets are in danger or injured), please document the violation immediately call your local EagleWatch coordinators and the Audubon Florida EagleWatch Coordinator. They, in turn, will contact Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the USFWS.

Audubon Center for Birds of Prey 407-644-0190
Reinier Munguia 863-797-7374; eaglewatch@audubon.org
Wildlife Alert Emergency Number to report Wildlife Violations 1-888-404-3922


1101 Audubon Way, Maitland, FL 32751
407-644-0190 Ext. 118