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Bald Eagles

Up ] Eagle Brochure ] Tulsa World Article ]

The Tulsa Audubon Society has been a leader in the protection of Bald Eagles for over 30 years. TAS also hosts annual Eagle Days to provide the public an opportunity to observe feeding Bald Eagles below Keystone Dam in January. TAS also own and maintains an Eagle Sanctuary along Keystone Lake (inaccessible to the public) for the protection of wintering Bald Eagles.

The George M. Sutton Avian Research Center has reintroduced a breeding population of Bald Eagles into Oklahoma and other southern states. 

The Nature Conservancy has established registry agreements with private landowners, along the Arkansas River from Keystone Lake to Muskogee to protect eagle roosting and nesting habitat.

Tulsa Audubon has published a brochure about the Bald Eagle in Oklahoma, available here in a web-page format or viewable as a PDF file.

The History of Bald Eagles On The Arkansas River

When the Bald Eagle was formally adopted as our national emblem in 1782, there were possibly as many as 20,000 nesting pairs in what is now the United States. By the late 1800s, however, the Bald Eagle's U.S. breeding range had shrunk to only Alaska, some Great Lakes states and Florida. The population decline was the result of a number of reasons, including human encroachment and habitat destruction, killing birds for trophies, killing them because they were thought to be predators, and in later years, the widespread use of DDT which caused their egg shells to thin and not hatch. In 1967 the Bald Eagle was declared an endangered species.

Eagle Sanctuary Approximately 30 years ago the Tulsa Audubon Society realized that some Bald Eagles were wintering around reservoirs built in the 1940s and 1950s in northeastern Oklahoma. The eagles were especially attracted to the areas below dams where it was easy to feed upon the injured fish coming through power turbines. They also determined that the eagles around Keystone Lake, just west of Tulsa, preferred to roost in one particular cove. After negotiations with the owner of the land surrounding the cove, Tulsa Audubon raised the money to purchase 105 acres to protect the site. This land is still owned by the Tulsa Audubon Society. Each winter, weekly, from November 1 to April 1, Tulsa Audubon volunteers count the roosting birds.

The eagle preserve, itself, is NOT open to the public. Eagles are sensitive to human intrusion and their nesting success depends on keeping people from getting to close. Our volunteers use a blind, constructed with the help of the Tulsa District of the Corps of Engineers, located a safe distance from the roost. The viewing area below the dam is open to the public, easily accessible and a good spot to see the eagles feeding or sitting in the trees along the river, without disturbing nesting activity.

Click Here for an article from the April 4, 1979 issue of the Tulsa World about the eagle roost campaign, and the late Jack Miller, who donated a painting of a Bald Eagle over Keystone Lake.

A huge boost for the eagles in Oklahoma, as well as most of the lower 48 states, was a program of the George M. Sutton Avian Center in Bartlesville. Between 1984 and 1992 the Sutton Center raised and released 275 Southern Bald Eagles in the southeastern U.S. Bald Eagle eggs were removed from nests in Florida and transported to their captive breeding facility in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Once there the eggs were incubated, hatched, and the resulting eaglets were raised and released in high quality habitat in five southeastern states. In many cases, the captively-raised Bald Eagles have returned to their release sites to establish territories and nests.

Thanks in large part to this restoration work the Bald Eagle was removed from the endangered and threatened species list on June 28, 2007!

The Sutton Center continues to monitor eagles in Oklahoma, featuring a Bald Eagle Nest Cam and satellite tracking of birds.

For more details on the Sutton Centers ongoing Bald Eagle recovery program, visit the Sutton Center Bald Eagle Restoration site to learn more about this fascinating story and outstanding conservation success.

Eagle Days Tulsa Audubon also realized that this natural resource was generally unknown to the local population and commenced a program, each winter at Keystone Lake, to educate the public and give them an opportunity to view the birds. This was probably the first organized eagle-watching program in the state of Oklahoma. In the 1980s this evolved into two days each January when guided tours, on buses sponsored by the Tulsa World and the First National Bank, were given to the better viewing sites down the river. Later, The Corps of Engineers constructed improved parking and viewing areas below Keystone Dam, on the north side of the river.

In 2013 TAS moved out Eagle Days program to south Tulsa, since Bald Eagles are now found nesting all long the Aransas River. After view the wild eagles, we then have live bird presentations at the Jenks Schools, hosted in partnership with the Jenks High School Ornithology Club. The Sutton Center and Grey Snow Eagle House bring live eagle for participants to view up close. These are birds that were injured (often shot) that survived their injuries but are non-releasable. To this day we still have between 500-1,000 people coming out to see the eagles each year.

Eagle viewing has become popular since Tulsa Audubon started its public program 30 years ago. Today, there are more than 20 parks, refuges and bird watching organizations that have tours and programs each winter for this purpose.




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Copyright 2013 Tulsa Audubon Society
Last modified: October 10, 2017




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