For Immediate Release - June 01, 2010

Environment Officials Band Eagle Chicks in West Newbury

Nest is one of 22 known Massachusetts eagle nests

Photos from the banding

WEST NEWBURY - June 1, 2010 - Environmental officials today banded two six-week-old bald eagle chicks in West Newbury - one of 27 bald eagle breeding sites identified by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) this year. There was one female and one male chick banded today.

"With the help of state, federal and private wildlife protection and research efforts, the bald eagle has made a tremendous comeback in Massachusetts," said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles, whose office includes MassWildlife. "We're thrilled that these majestic birds - the symbol of our nation - continue to thrive here."

The state's eagle restoration program is a joint effort of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), private partners and lead agencies the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) and MassWildlife, which is a division of the Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

"Banding the eagles gives us vital information about habitat preferences, mortality rates and population trends," said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. "The more we know about wildlife, the more we can do to protect them."

MassWildlife staff outfitted the West Newbury eaglets with uniquely numbered metal leg bands that will enable researchers to identify the birds. Banding young eagles is an important tool for measuring the success of restoration programs - letting scientists gather information about survival rates, how far birds disperse when they leave the nest, habitat preferences and causes of death. MassWildlife bands all bald eagles hatched in the Commonwealth each year.

In 2009, there were 27 bald eagle pairs statewide located in breeding territories including the Quabbin Reservoir, Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers, and areas in Plymouth, Berkshire and Worcester Counties. In 2009, 21 nests produced chicks, and 37 young eagles survived to fledge.

A victim of habitat loss and reproductive failure linked to exposure to pesticides such as DDT, bald eagle populations plummeted across the country by the time they were placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1973. Their numbers have since rebounded and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) removed them from the federal roster in July, 2007.

Listed as endangered in Massachusetts since the 1980s, bald eagles remain on the state list but are gaining ground in the Bay State - thanks in large part to a restoration project begun in 1982. MassWildlife and its partners brought young eagles from Canada and Michigan and raised them in cages overlooking the Quabbin Reservoir. Through a wildlife management practice known as hacking, eaglets began to nest in the Quabbin and, after fledging, some hacked eagles established breeding territories at the reservoir.

In 1989, eight decades after the last historic bald eagle nest was observed in Massachusetts (on Snake Pond in Sandwich), the first three chicks fledged from two Quabbin nests. Seven bald eagle pairs nested there in 2009. Statewide, the number of birds surveyed has trended upward from eight birds counted in 1980 to 71 birds counted in 2010 during one-day surveys. There were 81 birds spotted in 2009 and 73 birds in 2008.

Eagle restoration efforts have been funded over the years by a combination of public and private sources including DFG, USFW, The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Fund, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, National Grid and the former Bank of Boston.

Click here for a fact sheet on bald eagles.