In A Local weather-Change Shift, Dairy Farmers In Washington State Welcome Eagles

Large bird with black body and white head perches on a hay bail with tractor nearby.
A Bald Eagle finds a perch on a bale of hay. Photograph by Michelle Lancaster.

From the Summer time 2023 concern of Dwelling Fowl journal. Subscribe now.

Bald Eagles are turning some Pacific Northwest dairy farms into birding hotspots, and that seems to be an excellent factor for the eagles, the farmers, and birdwatchers.

A pair of research revealed just lately within the journals Ecosphere and Northwest Science—based mostly on analysis led by Ethan Duvall, a doctoral candidate in Cornell College’s Division of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology— revealed the drivers of a change in Bald Eagle foraging habits and habitat use within the area. In the course of the winter, eagles want a dependable supply of meals to outlive. That was once the carcasses of salmon.

Based on eBird Traits knowledge, Bald Eagle populations in and round Whatcom County have grown considerably over the previous decade.

“In the course of the previous 50 years, local weather change has altered the chum salmon spawning schedule, inflicting the fish to run earlier within the winter,” says Duvall. “Now, salmon are generally spawning earlier than annual flooding is at its peak. The fish who spawn and die are then swept away by the excessive water as an alternative of being deposited on shore the place the eagles can get them.”

Concurrently meals provides are shrinking, the variety of Bald Eagles is rising—the results of a long time of conservation measures. Based on eBird Traits knowledge, native Bald Eagle populations in Whatcom County, Washington, have grown by 70% to 110% since 2007. In response, the eagles have turned from the rivers to close by agricultural areas.

Dairy farmers interviewed for Duvall’s analysis in Whatcom County say they’re glad with the brand new association as a result of the eagles clear up the regular circulate of animal byproducts ensuing from the births and deaths of cows. The birds additionally hold a lid on conventional farm pests, resembling rodents and starlings. Each one of many 20 dairy farmers interviewed within the research stated they’d no drawback with the eagles being on their land and didn’t need them to go away.

Many birds gather to scavenge a carcass.
Bald Eagles and Widespread Ravens collect at a carcass close to Whatcom County, Washington. Photograph by Breck Breckenridge/Macaulay Library.

Duvall says that farmer attitudes towards eagles in Whatcom County should not the norm in different agricultural areas, particularly close to free-range poultry farms the place eagles prey on chickens.

“The narrative round birds of prey and farmers has historically been unfavourable and combative, primarily attributable to claims of livestock predation,” says Duvall. “Nonetheless, dairy farmers in northwestern Washington don’t contemplate the eagles threats. Actually, many farmers recognize the providers that the eagles present.

“This research provides me hope that, transferring ahead, farmers, wildlife managers, and conservationists can come collectively to assume critically about methods to maximize advantages for folks and wildlife within the areas they share.”

The prospect to view Bald Eagles up shut, generally in giant numbers, has drawn birdwatchers to dairy farms in Whatcom County. Emma Rogers didn’t even personal a pair of binoculars when she first noticed the eagles on a dairy farm close to her Bellingham, Washington, house.

“It was my first time actually watching birds,” Rogers says. “I had such a blast with that have, I used to be hooked. Now, I see Bald Eagles nearly each day however I nonetheless get giddy once I see these distinct wingbeats or putting white head and tail. I really feel just like the world stops for a second as a result of they’ve such a commanding presence.”

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