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The annual mid-winter bald eagle survey conducted Jan. 13 along the Missouri River stretching from Bismarck to the Garrison Dam showed a record number of bald eagles, according to Patrick T. Isakson, conservation biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
A total of 108 bald eagles were counted, breaking the previous best of 85 in 2008. â€śThe mild winter has kept the river open and a lot of waterfowl in the area,â€ť Isakson said, while mentioning the availability of prey is also indicative of the number of eagles wintering in the state.
The aerial survey is part of a nationwide effort to try to get an estimate of the number of bald eagles wintering in the lower 48 states. All survey routes across the country are run at the same time to avoid counting the birds twice.
Eagles are relatively easy to spot as they prefer to perch in large cottonwood trees along the river. Adult bald eagles have a white head and tail and a dark brown body, while immature bald eagles are brown with irregular white plumage. Golden eagles, which are also counted, are dark in color and have a gold cap on their head.