What used to be endangered birds are now soaring high in the skies of New Jersey. Bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list in 2007 and after eight years, they continue to exhibit increasing numbers.
The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) documented in its 2015 New Jersey Bald Eagle Project Report the current status of bald eagle nesting pairs, active nests and nests productivity in the state. The report was created in collaboration with CWF biologists, some volunteers and members of the Division of Fish and Wildlife at New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection.
The CWF was able to monitor a total of 191 nest sites during the nesting season. Out of this number, 150 had eggs and thus were considered active. 11 nests were said to be housekeeping, or territorial pairs.
For the said season, the observers discovered 13 new eagle pairs, of which nine came from the south, two from central New Jersey and another two in northern New Jersey.
The productivity rate for each active and known-outcome nest was 1.33 offsprings. Such percentage can be translated to 199 young eagles produced in 122 nests or 81 percent of the 150 nests monitored.
Meanwhile, 19 percent or 28 nests were not able to fledge young.
The area where the bald eagles are highly dominant remains to be Delaware Bay, with 40 percent of all nests found in Salem and Cumberland counties.
"In addition to our fellow scientists in New Jersey and nearby states, I'd like to thank the wonderful eagle project volunteers who make keeping track of all these nests possible," said CWF eagle biologist Larissa Smith.
"The state's eagle population would not be thriving without the efforts of the dedicated eagle volunteers who observe nests, report sightings and help protect critical habitat," the CWF wrote in its report.
Although historic data are incomplete, the authors cited one study that said New Jersey had more than 20 pairs of nests in the Delaware Bay. Come the 1970s, the pairs plummeted to only one as a result of the pesticide dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT). The low numbers persisted until the early 1980s.
In 1972, authorities banned the use of DDT. This protocol, together with efforts from the Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP), restored the number of the bald eagles little by little.
The nesting pairs increased to 23 by the year 2000, 48 by 2005 and 82 by 2010.
Photo: Pete Markham | Flickr