Bald eagles are one of the greatest blessings the Missouri River brings to Bismarck/Mandan.  It's heartbreaking to hear that their numbers nationwide are being seriously impacted by the scourge of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Since February, over 37 million turkeys and chickens have been culled on U.S. farms

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed nearly a thousand cases of bird flu in wild birds including over 50 bald eagles. Clearly, those numbers are significantly higher as many wild birds die in somewhat remote areas.

The current wild bird death toll is ten times greater than the 2015 outbreak.

The scope of the infections is also far more expansive as the virus has now been detected in birds in 34 states.  This year's variant has proven to be deadlier than previous strains, affecting ducks and geese at a much more alarming level than avian influenza outbreaks of the past. As people continue to encroach on wild bird habitats, their numbers have been drastically dropping over the last 50 years.


Yet, Bald eagles have been one of this century's greatest success stories.


With an estimated 300,000 bald eagles in the country today — a population that quadrupled between 2009 and 2021 — the bird was removed from the U.S. Endangered Species List in 2007.


Given that, experts believe the species should weather the impact of this virus.

Certainly the problem with bald eagles, and all raptors for that matter, they are carnivores and scavengers.  They risk being infected when they feed. On the positive side- raptors don't generally associate with other birds in groups. It is far too soon to predict the ongoing impact on eagles, but there have been ominous indicators with a sharp drop in eagle reproduction numbers reported in states like Georgia where many migratory birds spend the winter.

Migratory birds that are now carrying the virus across the country.

Hopefully, the summer season will signal an end to the outbreak. But where have we heard that before?  Here's wishing for a spring and summer season filled with sightings of these majestic animals along the Missouri River and all across the state.

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