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Why are more bald eagles nesting in Kentucky?

A bald eagle flew over the Jacobson Park reservoir in Lexington on April 2, 2015. Scott Brinegar, a public service worker with Lexington’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the eagle had been fishing in the lake.
A bald eagle flew over the Jacobson Park reservoir in Lexington on April 2, 2015. Scott Brinegar, a public service worker with Lexington’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the eagle had been fishing in the lake. cbertram@herald-leader.com

More bald eagles chose to raise their young in Kentucky this year than ever recorded before, the state fish and wildlife department says.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources says 164 pairs of bald eagles nested in Kentucky in 2017.

That’s nearly twice as many as there were just seven years ago, when 84 pairs were reported, according to the department’s website.

Bald eagles stopped breeding in Kentucky during the 1960s, and in 1986, the state had just one occupied eagle’s nest, the department says.

Once an endangered species, bald eagles have made a comeback since the government banned the use of the insecticide DDT, which caused their eggshells to be too thin; passed laws that prohibited people from killing them and disturbing their nesting sites; and worked to reintroduce them, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says.

While western Kentucky has historically had the most nesting sites, the state says it has become more common to find bald eagles rearing their young in central and eastern Kentucky too, because of the creation of large reservoirs that provide good habitat for them.

Fayette County was home to nesting eagles this year, according to the department. Bald eagles have been seen visiting the Jacobson Park reservoir for at least the past two years.

Bald eagle pairs begin building and repairing their nests as early as October, and they usually lay their eggs between January and March. The state fish and wildlife department says it conducts aerial surveys of nests west of Frankfort in March, and nests in the eastern part of the state are checked by boat or by ground in late winter and early spring.

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