Adopt a bald eagle nest, watch a bald eagle family grow

Fun BENW Volunteers' updates:

  • First copulation of the year: January 28 -- we're not far off from having eggs in the nest!
  • First eggs of the year: February 1 -- a different nest near Prairie du Sac has adults hunkered down in the nest, incubating between 1-3 eggs!
    • Update (3/1/18): This puzzling nest appeared to incubate eggs in early February, then stopped, then went quiet, and now the pair has been observed copulating. It's hard to say if they actually had eggs and they failed, or if it was some weird practice-incubating behavior.
  • More eggs in nests: mid-late February -- three pairs are currently incubating: two pairs on the north side of Madison, and one in the Sauk area.
  • Only one nest in our group of 12 has had no eagle activity as of March 1, for reasons unknown.
  Bald eagle adults are already incubating eggs on February 1, 2018! Photo by Nydia and Steve Kien

Bald eagle adults are already incubating eggs on February 1, 2018! Photo by Nydia and Steve Kien

About Bald Eagle Nest Watch

The bald eagle was pushed to the brink of extinction by the effects of the pesticide DDT and other dangers in the early 1970’s. There were only 100 nesting pairs left in the entire state of Wisconsin.

  Bald eagle photo by Monica Hall

Bald eagle photo by Monica Hall

Since then, in one of the greatest conservation successes our country has seen, the population has rebounded. The banning of DDT and other restrictions has allowed the bald eagle to thrive once again. About the same time as the bald eagle was being delisted federally from the Endangered Species list in 2007, successfully fledged bald eagles took flight in Dane County. They have continued to thrive but they still face major threats such as lead poisoning and car and train collisions.


How does the program work?

Madison Audubon is launching a new citizen science program in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that seeks to better understand how bald eagles are doing in Dane County. Participants adopt a bald eagle nest and visit it once per week for an hour each time, starting in February when adults begin repairing or building nests. During that hour, volunteers will observe and document the presence of young and what the family is doing. Weekly visits continue until the young fledge. All volunteers will attend a 2.5 hour training that involves an indoor, introductory component as well as a field component.

The WDNR conducts an activity flight in early spring to observe eggs and chicks in the nests, but does not have the staff or funding to return to the nests to know whether the young successfully fledge. With your help, we can answer the questions about bald eagle nest productivity in Dane County!


We're sorry, this program is full!


Notes and participant requirements:

  Bald eagle family photo by Arlene Koziol

Bald eagle family photo by Arlene Koziol

  • No experience is necessary! We will host a training session on January 20 to teach participants about bald eagle nesting and behavior around the nest, how to document observations and use the datasheet, and safety protocols.
  • Volunteers will need to sign a data privacy form stating they won't share the nest location with individuals outside of the program. This is to protect the bald eagles.
  • Participants should have their own transportation to the nest site as well as binoculars. A spotting scope is recommended (Madison Audubon can lend you a scope for the day).
  • Each nest will ideally have two individuals (either working together or separately) assigned to it each season. This is to allow for cross-checking data and ensuring the nest still gets documented if one volunteer has to miss a week.
  • Volunteers should be able to commit to most or every week of the program. It is perfectly reasonable to need to miss a week or two here or there, and that's ok! But we do ask that you be able to make weekly visits for most of the season.


We're sorry, this program is full!

So many of you have signed up for this new program that we've closed registration for this year. Please keep an eye on our social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and sign up for our email listserv (scroll to the very bottom of this page!) to receive updates on the program.


Contact us

If you have any questions about the program, please feel welcome to contact either Drew or Brenna! We will respond to you as quickly as possible.

Drew Cashman - Madison Audubon volunteer & co-organizer
   Phone: 608-850-7264

Brenna Marsicek - Madison Audubon director of communications & co-organizer
   Phone: 608-255-2473


  Photo by Drew Cashman

Photo by Drew Cashman


Check out our new citizen science-based field trip, Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey, based on Madison's Lake Mendota on January 6!

Banner photo by Arlene Koziol