Bald eagle

Avian flu challenges bald eagle comeback

The virus was responsible for at least three bald eagle deaths in Georgia

While bald eagle conservation has allowed the large raptors to thrive after near extinction from chemical exposure in the 1960s, they are now facing another challenge—avian influenza. In April 2022, researchers found 660 cases of the H5N1 virus that causes avian influenza in wild birds. At this time, three bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in Georgia died from the virus. Researchers wondered how influenza virus was affecting bald eagle nest success. They found that in coastal Georgia, less than half of the nests fledged one eaglet that year. In a Florida county, nesting success rates were also halved. The researchers said that living in coastal areas puts the eagles at greater risk of catching the virus since it can persist in the water for more than a year. Eagles then catch the virus when consuming infected birds.

Read the study in Scientific Reports.

Header Image: Avian influenza has affected the nest success of bald eagles in coastal areas. Credit:anoldent