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Changes in Bald Eagle Nesting Distribution and Nest-site Selection in Kentucky during 1986–2019

Joshua R. Castle1,*, David Brown1, Kelly Watson2, Kate Slankard3, and Taylor Allen1

1Department of Biological Sciences, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY 40475. 2Department of Physics, Geosciences, and Astronomy, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY 40475. 3Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Frankfort, KY 40601. *Corresponding author.

Northeastern Naturalist, Volume 30, Issue 1 (2023): 59–74

Kentucky’s breeding Haliaeetus leucocephalus (Bald Eagle) population began recovering in 1986, with a single nest, and has since expanded from the state’s western portion to the central and eastern regions. We used aerial survey data to describe the spatiotemporal distribution of Bald Eagle nests in Kentucky, to examine changes in nest-site selection relative to natural and anthropogenic features, and to create a nesting-habitat suitability model. Our results highlight increased nesting near developed areas in recent years. Although nests in these areas productively contribute to populations, we note some considerations of increased risks associated with nesting in developed areas. We also provide predictions of available nesting areas and data to direct the future monitoring and management of Bald Eagles in Kentucky.

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