DEEP: Eagle Nests in 2002

More Bald Eagles Nesting in CT this Year
Adapted from an article that appeared in the May/June 2002 issue of  Connecticut Wildlife.

The Wildlife Division has been busy tracking nesting eagles in Connecticut. By early April 2002, eight eagle pairs had set up territories, built nests or were sitting on eggs. Last year there were four active pairs in the state. Only 10 years ago, the first successful bald eagle nest since the 1950s was documented.

{Bald eagle perched near nest.}
A bald eagle perches near one of Connecticutís newest eagle nests as morning fog burns off.

Nests Need Protection
The first year that a pair of bald eagles begins to nest is a very critical and tentative time. If human activity, whether intentional or unintentional, continually disturbs eagles off their nest, the nest may fail and the pair will not return to the site. The Division doesnít disclose the locations of nests to protect the eagles from human disturbance and out of respect to the landowners who do not want trespassers on their land. All but one of the pairs are nesting on private property. What is really exciting is the distribution of the pairs throughout the state: three are in Hartford County, two are in Litchfield County, and one pair each is in New London County, New Haven County and Middlesex County.

Fall and Rise of CTís Eagles
The bald eagle declined throughout the United States due to human disturbance at nest sites; the loss of waterside habitat and nesting trees; intentional shooting by poachers; illegal trapping and the contamination of food sources by pesticides like DDT. By 1963, only 417 nesting pairs were found in the lower 48 states. In 1973, the bald eagle was listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Prior to the 1990s, the last documented bald eagle nesting in the state occurred on the Connecticut River in Middlesex County in the 1950s. The rapid decline of bald eagles was directly attributed to the effects of pesticides on breeding populations. The most significant factor in the recovery of the bald eagle was the restriction placed on the use of organochlorine pesticides. Many of these pesticides were banned from production in the United States. In 1992, the first successful bald eagle nest was reported in Connecticut since the 1950s. In 1997, a second pair started breeding and, in 2001, a third and fourth pair began nesting in Connecticut.

From Endangered to Threatened
On July 12, 1995, the bald eagle was reclassified from an endangered species to a threatened species in the lower 48 states. On July 6, 1999, the bald eagle was proposed for de-listing due to recovery. However, the species has not yet been de-listed as the proposal has been put on hold. Therefore, the bald eagle remains a Connecticut endangered and federally threatened species.

The endangered and threatened designations provide bald eagles with protection from human actions. Anyone who violates either the federal or state endangered species acts will be prosecuted and/or fined. Violations include "taking," "harming" or "harassing." "Take" is defined in the ESA as harassing, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing or collecting listed wildlife species; attempting to engage in such conduct; or soliciting or causing such acts to be committed. "Harm" is defined as significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns including breeding, feeding or sheltering. "Harass" is defined as an intentional or negligent act of omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavior patterns which include but are not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering. The fine for violating the ESA can be up to $100,000 and six months imprisonment.

CT Eagles Making the News
In past issues of Connecticut Wildlife there have been reports of sightings of bald eagles (whose leg band numbers can be identified) from Connecticut. One particular Connecticut eagle that the Division has received information about is a female chick, born in 1994, that is now a breeding adult along the Hudson River, about 10 miles north of Hudson, New York. She occupies one of the four Hudson River eagle breeding territories and successfully nested, produced and fledged three chicks in 2000 and two chicks in 2001! A four-hour documentary that aired on PBS April 23 and 24 about the Hudson River, "Americaís First River: Bill Moyers on the Hudson," profiled this female eagle as part of the ongoing monitoring of Hudson River bald eagles by New York biologists.

 Bald Eagle Fact Sheet