EARTH DAY 1970 – 2020: Why do we see so many more Eagles today than fifty years ago? WITH BEAUTIFUL PHOTO BY DOUG BURGESS!

The return of American Bald Eagles to Massachusetts is a wonderful conservation success story. We now see Bald Eagle nests expanding throughout the state with overall numbers steadily rising each year. Several pairs are thought to now nest on Cape Ann!

By the turn of the previous century, the Bald Eagle had nearly disappeared from Massachusetts. Loss of habitat, hunting, trapping, and poison contributed to their demise during the 19th century. The last known nest was seen at Sandwich, Cape Cod in 1905. Nationwide, by the mid-twentieth century, the pesticide DDT nearly pushed the birds to extinction.

The Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass Wildlife) now reports that as of January 2019, there are 76 territorial pairs, which is up from 68 pairs in 2017, and 59 pairs in 2016. From these 76 pairs, 65 chicks successfully fledged! How was this made possible?

In the early 1980s, it was discovered that some Bald Eagles were spending winters in the Quabbin Reservoir area.  In 1982, MassWildlife, along with other organizations, including MassAudubon, began a project that would encourage nesting in the area.

Young eaglets from wild nests in Canada were reared in cages overlooking the Reservoir. This was done in hopes the eagles would view the area as home base and return to nest when mature.

The first fledged bird returned in 1989 and the Massachusetts Bald Eagle population has been steadily growing ever since! Forty-one chcks were raised using the “Hacking” method. Over 780 chicks have fledged since the program’s inception however this is likely an underestimation as the counts have largely centered around the Quabbin Reservoir, and most recently Lake Quinsigamond.

If you suspect a Bald Eagle nest in your area , please contact the State Ornithologist Andrew Vitz at andrew.vitz@mass.gov.

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