Banner Photo: Bald eagle. (Credit: Rich Duncan)

2020 Rating

2020 Rationale

There is considerable annual variation in bald eagle counts, with counts in the last three years being similar to the last ten years, but lower compared to earlier periods.

2017 Rating

2017 Rationale

Eagle counts in Squamish and Lower Howe Sound show numbers have rebounded since a low point in the 1970s and 1980s, but eagle populations continue to fluctuate based on available food sources and recent counts are quite low. The local trend is concerning, but elsewhere eagles are abundant and counting efforts are robust.

The following is an excerpt from the full updated article. Download the full 2020 article for all content and references.

Bald Eagles:

numbers comparable to

past ten years

Authors:  Jennifer Chapman, Research Assistant, Ocean Watch, Ocean Wise Research Institute

Aroha Miller, Manager, Ocean Watch, Ocean Wise Research Institute

Reviewer: Eric Anderson, Program Head, Ecological Restoration BSc Program, School of Construction and the Environment, British Columbia Institute of Technology

Excerpt from 2020 article

During the winter season, bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) populations in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound are diligently observed and recorded by citizen scientists. Counts from three citizen science groups in the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh/Squamish, Brackendale, and lower Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound areas were reported on previously. Depending on the group, the counts have been running anywhere from 15 years to almost four decades and are ongoing today. Counts are conducted in winter (i.e., December or January) around salmon spawning rivers in order to count bald eagles attracted to the salmon carcasses that result from spawning.

Read the full article to see what else is happening.

Background: A bald eagle. (Credit: Rich Duncan)

What’s been done since 2017?

The table below reports on progress made on recommended actions from the previous 2017 article, where identified. Many of these require ongoing action.

2017 Action Action Taken
Individual and Organization Actions
Use proper viewing ethics when watching eagles. Do not disturb eagles feeding or roosting. Supported by Eagle Watch resources, volunteers and signage.
Government Action and Policy
Empower local stewardship by increasing public bald eagle education efforts and education of regulations of the B.C. Wildlife Act, and locations of eagle nests and Important Bird Areas. Increase enforcement of activities restricted in the B.C. Wildlife Act. Eagle Watch acknowledges the support of the District of Squamish.
Closely monitor and manage prey species populations, specifically to ensure adequate chum runs are available to support eagle populations. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) supports the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery long-term chum stocking program, which began in 2012. In efforts to protect chum, DFO closed this recreational fishery in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound in November 2019 (see Salmon, OWHS 2020).
Legally recognize and strictly regulate IBAs as Protected Areas, especially in IBAs that do not have established legal protection (e.g., National and Provincial Parks). Where this is not feasible, consider conservation easements and agreements, private land stewardship, and land acquisition to ensure protection. Approximately 50% of IBAs do not overlap with  protected areas (e.g., National Parks).1 In European countries, IBAs offer legal protection.1
Legislate against the production and use of harmful chemicals (e.g., Persistent Organic Pollutants [POPs]). Canada was the first country to sign and ratify the Stockholm Convention, which aims to protect against health and environmental impacts from POPs. Details and links to Canada’s work in this area can be found online here.

1Bird Studies Canada. Are IBAs Protected? [Internet]. [cited 2019 Oct 31]. Available from: 

What can you do?

A detailed overview of recommended actions relating to climate change is included in The path to zero carbon municipalities. In some cases, no progress was identified on previous recommended actions; these remain listed below.

action-individual Individual and Organization Actions:  

  • Learn more about eagles by watching live streaming web cams of eagle nests or by attending Eagle Watch at Brackendale during the winter.
  • Use proper viewing ethics when watching eagles. Do not disturb eagles feeding or roosting.
  • Know the rules that protect eagles. It is an offense to possess, take, injure, molest, or destroy a bird or its eggs. Eagle nests are protected year round, whether or not the nest is in use, by the B.C. Wildlife Act.
  • Adopt the best practices guidelines for protecting eagle nests during development that include identification of eagle nests before development and the establishment of a vegetated no-disturbance buffer zone around the nest tree.
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