Bald eagles are returning to New Jersey

Bald eagles are returning to New Jersey

The bald eagle was on the verge of taking flight from the Garden State. By 1982, their numbers had dwindled down to one nesting pair that was unable to successfully hatch an egg for six years in a row.

Now their numbers have risen to 250 nesting pairs, according to the NJ Bald Eagle Project Report released last Friday by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection in partnership with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. Another 17 duos were also spotted, but without egg-filled nests, meaning the survey spotted 267 bald eagle pairs in total statewide. This tally includes 29 new eagle pairs discovered in 2022.

Organizers said the rebound is due to regulations such as The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the 1972 ban on the pesticide DDT, as well as recent conservation efforts through monitoring and public outreach.

“They [NJ DEP] mainly began the Bald Eagle Mission as a result of there was one [bald eagle] nest in New Jersey,” mentioned Larissa Smith, a wildlife biologist on the Preserve Wildlife Basis.

Among the many bald eagle’s best threats was dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, or DDT — a pesticide used to management mosquito populations that’s now banned nationwide. DDT poisoned bald eagles by way of the fish they consumed, and would skinny the shells on their eggs to the purpose that eagles would typically crush them by accident.

Bald eagles are an important indicator of environmental health. As the populations of bald eagles rebound, scientists are seeing similar success stories for other animals.

Rich Nicol

“[Without conservation efforts], the [bald] eagle might have died out and gone the way of other birds, like the Carolina parakeet, the passenger pigeon and the dodo,” mentioned NYC Audubon’s Government Director Jessica Wilson, who has seen the same rebound in bald eagles alongside the East Coast.

The nationwide hen nonetheless faces different challenges on account of human exercise. In New Jersey, the nation’s most densely populated state, house is at a premium and fixed improvement continues to scale back or intrude with accessible habitats. That features areas for nesting, roosting and foraging. Mortality charges are additionally very excessive amongst bald eagles. Up to 80% die earlier than reaching the age of 5, after they are mature sufficient to reproduce.

“Their [young eagles] first year is really tough because they’re going out on their own,” Smith mentioned. “They’re just really learning how to fend for themselves, how to feed themselves, how to get around.”

There are 250 nesting pairs in New Jersey, and about half live along the Delaware Bay.

Bill Griffith, NJ Eagle Project volunteer.

Last year, about 150 volunteers conducted the monitoring and reported that 83% of nests successfully produced offspring, a total of 335 eaglets. About half of all the nests were concentrated along the Delaware Bay region, which includes the counties of Cumberland, Salem and Cape May. The report states the bald eagles’ current productivity is enough to keep the population growing.

“That’s the highest number of eagle fledges that we’ve ever had in New Jersey – that is a really good number,” Smith said. “For the immediate future, they’re [bald eagles in NJ] undoubtedly going to enhance.”

Bald eagles can have a wingspan of more than 7 feet.

Jimmy Douglas

In New Jersey, bald eagles remain on the state’s endangered list during breeding season, despite no longer having that status federally for over 10 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages a recovery program that runs through 2027 with the purpose of monitoring and documenting the yellow-beaked raptors to protect their nests, provide public outreach and acquire more knowledge for conservation management.

“Bald eagles are an indicator for the health of the environment. Birds just like people need clean water. They need green space. They need clean skies to thrive,” Wilson said. “As the populations of bald eagles rebound, we’re seeing similar success stories with some birds.”

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