Record Number of Bald Eagles Spotted on Lake Tahoe

Photo by Richard Lee

It’s a banner year for Bald Eagles in Lake Tahoe. The Tahoe Institute of Natural Science (TINS) reports that a record number of 42 Bald Eagles were spotted during its annual survey. The previous high was 27 set in 2017. Approximately 200 volunteers also turned out for the event, double last year’s number, which is part of why TINS believes this was the most accurate count to date. TINS took over local coordination of the national tracking effort nine years ago.

“Based on reports of sightings from recent weeks we expected to see quite a few eagles during the count, but this total was surprising.” said TINS outreach director,  Sarah Hockensmith. “As always our tally is based on careful examination of the timing of movements of individual birds from one station to the next, and we believe we have a conservative and accurate tally for the day.” 

Interestingly, many of the eagles were concentrated around parts of the lake that usually see few during the count, namely the middle parts of both the East and West Shores. Whereas spotters found relatively few in the marshes around South Lake, where there are usually numerous eagles. 

Photo by Julieanne Benson

Here’s a breakdown of the eagle counts from the past few years:

  • 2021: 42 Bald Eagles spotted: 30 adults and 12 immatures.
  • 2020: 24 Bald Eagles spotted: 17 adults and 7 immatures.
  • 2019: 19 Bald Eagles spotted:  13 adults and 6 immatures.
  • 2018: 22 Bald Eagles spotted: 16 adults and 6 immatures.
  • 2017: 27 Bald Eagles spotted: 23 adults, 2 immatures, and 2 of unknown age.

The national symbol of America became a protected species in 1940, but populations continued to decline dramatically with the introduction of the insecticide DDT. Tahoe’s count began in 1979, and for the first few years there may have been only two or three Bald Eagles per year, with zero eagles seen on the 1980 count. Thanks to protections, eagle numbers at Tahoe started to rise, peaking at 27 in 2017.  In recent years, counts have averaged in the low 20s.

“In a lot of ways, this count monitors the success of the protections that we have put in place for these eagles,” said TINS Co-Founder and Executive Director, Will Richardson, “and it is a lot of fun.”

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