A bald eagle in a nest.

A bald eagle in a nest.

Chatham County leads the state for the number of bald eagle nests, wildlife officials say.

This year's count of 27 nests tops the county’s previous lead of 22, and includes a rare ground nest found on Cabbage Island.

The county, which is home to Savannah, is about 250 miles southeast of Atlanta.

Officials believe 65 to 80 percent of nests made are expected to be successful, according to Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources.

The department also says 2017 was a record year with 218 documented nests, and at least 142 of those nests were known to be successful.

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Decline in eagles can be linked to several factors, DNR Survey Leader Bob Sargent said.

Pesticides, such as DDT, which was banned from use in 1972, affected the largely-fish diet of the bald eagle because of the high concentration of the chemical in its food. 

The loss of old-growth forests to 1920s logging operations in the state also made nesting difficult, Sargent said. Bald eagles typically make their nests in large trees, especially ones with access to waterways.

Research and conservation efforts have provided a landing ground for eagles to make a return to the state.

Hurricane Irma caused some problems for the bald eagle population in 2017. The storm damaged or destroyed as many as four nests in the state, but 11 new nests have since been found, including five on Georgia’s coast.

Tags: Bald Eagle  Georgia