For Immediate Release - January 10, 2011

Wildlife Officials and Volunteers Spot Record Number of Bald Eagles Across Massachusetts During Midwinter Survey

2011 count sets state record of 107 birds spotted during annual one-day survey

Photos of bald eagles

BOSTON - January 7, 2011 - Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard K. Sullivan today announced that an annual survey of wintering bald eagles conducted throughout the Commonwealth today yielded sightings of at least 107 individual birds, breaking the all time state record set in 2009.

Between 40 and 50 state and federal wildlife officials and volunteers observed birds through binoculars and spotting scopes on the ground and from the air during the one-day event, which is part of a national survey. State data are pooled with national data and used by wildlife officials to track the progress of the recovery of the bald eagle, which was taken off the federal list of endangered and threatened species in 2007.

The 2011 preliminary statewide number is 107 eagles, with 77 adults, 26 juveniles and four of unknown age. The largest number of birds - 33 eagles - was seen at the Quabbin Reservoir.

"The successful restoration of the bald eagle population in Massachusetts has a remarkable history that extends over 30 years," said Secretary Sullivan. "This annual survey and other year-round efforts by biologists and volunteers have helped to protect these national symbols and their habitat."

Some the sightings include 11 eagles spotted on the Merrimack River and five eagles at the Wachusett Reservoir. There were 18 eagles spotted on the Connecticut River. There were two eagles spotted on the Mystic Lakes in Arlington, two on the Housatonic River in Sheffield, and one in Orange. There were five eagles spotted in the Lakeville / Middleborough area. There were two eagles spotted at the Wattupa Ponds in Westport. There were three eagles spotted on the Chicopee River, two on the Deerfield River and one on the Westfield River.

Officials and volunteers traveled to several known eagle locations across the state, from Newburyport to Pittsfield, during the event.

Statewide, the number of birds surveyed has risen from eight birds counted in 1979 to 107 birds counted this year. Annual surveys in 2010 and 2009 spotted 72 and 81 birds, respectively.

"This survey is gives us vital information about bald eagles' habitat preferences and helps our biologists monitor their populations," said Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin, who assisted wildlife officials with the count in Lakeville today. "I would like to thank the many dedicated volunteers, staff, and conservationists braving cold and blustery conditions to provide the information needed for the national survey."

The annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey is a nationwide event coordinated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Each year, between 25 and 41 states participate, according to the USGS. The nationwide total of bald eagles counted during this annual event ranges from 13,000 to 16,000 birds.

DFG's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) has taken part in the national survey since its inception in 1979. By collecting leg band data on the birds, MassWildlife has documented that eagles wintering in Massachusetts include Bay State natives and birds hailing from Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The annual count provides wildlife managers with information on local eagle populations, helps officials identify and monitor critical wintering areas, and fosters public interest in bald eagles and their conservation.

In 2010, there were 32 bald eagle pairs statewide located in breeding territories, including the Quabbin Reservoir, Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers, and areas in Plymouth, Bristol, Berkshire and Worcester Counties. In 2010, 27 nests produced chicks, and 40 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 it was first listed as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. The eagle remained listed under the U.S. Endangered Species List of 1973. Their numbers have since rebounded and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) removed them from the federal list 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 the 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. Some of the eaglets remained and began to nest in the Quabbin, later spreading to the Connecticut River and eventually across the state.

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 (hatched and survived to fly from Massachusetts nests) from two Quabbin nests. Nine bald eagle pairs nested at the Quabbin Reservoir in 2010.

Eagle restoration efforts is supported by a combination of public and private sources including DFG, USFW, the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Fund, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and National Grid.

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water, and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.