GOVERNOR PATRICK AND STATE WILDLIFE OFFICIALS BAND EAGLE CHICKS AT QUABBIN RESERVOIR
Nest is one of 34 Massachusetts eagle breeding sites
Governor Patrick reaches to help restrain the eagle chick in preparation for banding. (Photo credit: Matt Bennett/Governor's Office)
BELCHERTOWN - Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - Governor Deval Patrick, along with state environmental officials, today banded bald eagle chicks at the Quabbin Reservoir - one of 34 bald eagle breeding sites across the state, as part of the state's successful bald eagle restoration program.
"I applaud our partners involved in wildlife protection and research efforts that have helped the bald eagle return to prominence in Massachusetts," said Governor Patrick. "It's great to see the bald eagle making such a strong, steady resurgence here."
The bald eagle restoration program, which includes this banding project, is a joint effort of the Department of Fish and Game's (DFG) Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) and private partners.
"The protection of habitat in and around coastal and inland waterways where these birds nest has contributed to the species' recovery," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. "Under the Governor's leadership, the Commonwealth has conserved more than 75,000 acres of land in the past four years, safeguarding open space where species such as the bald eagle can continue to thrive."
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 endangered list in July 2007. In January of this year, an annual one-day survey of wintering bald eagles conducted statewide yielded a record count of 107 eagles, up from eight birds counted in 1980.
Listed as endangered in Massachusetts since the 1980s, bald eagles remain on the state list but are gaining ground in the Commonwealth 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 using a wildlife management practice known as "hacking." 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, the first three chicks fledged from two Quabbin nests. Nine bald eagle pairs nested there in 2010. Statewide, the number of birds surveyed has trended upward from eight birds counted in 1980 to 107 birds counted in 2011 during one-day surveys. There were 72 birds spotted in 2010 and 81 birds in 2009.
In 2010, 34 bald eagle pairs established breeding territories across the state at locations such as the Quabbin Reservoir, the Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers, and areas in Plymouth, Berkshire and Worcester Counties. In 2010, 25 nests produced chicks statewide and 39 young eagles survived to fledge.
Banding young eagles is an important tool for measuring the success of restoration programs - allowing scientists gather information about survival rates, how far birds disperse when they leave the nest, habitat preferences and possible causes of death. MassWildlife bands all bald eagles hatched in the Commonwealth each year.
"It's great to see the bald eagle making a comeback here in Massachusetts," said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. "Banding is a successful wildlife management tool that informs decisions about habitat protection and helps us to track population trends."
Eagle restoration efforts have been funded over the years by a combination of public and private sources including DFG, USFW, MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Fund, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, National Grid and the former Bank of Boston.