Bald Eagles Make a Monster Comeback in NJ and Now You can See Them
Years ago, New Jersey was hit hard with the use of DDT, a pesticide used heavily for both agriculture and mosquito control. There was a lot of large residue in the environment as a result, especially in South Jersey, which then took a toll on the bald eagle population in the state. It took a long time work its way out of the environment.
How many bald eagle nesting pairs are in New Jersey?
Kathy Clark, a biologist with the Endangered Species Program at the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife said there was only one single bald eagle nesting pair that existed in the state in the 1960s and 1970s.
That's when the state began restoring the eagle population in the 1980s. A second nest was not detected until 1989.
She said eagles are long-lived, meaning they take a long time to mature so it was going to take a long time to see a recovery in their population.
In 2021, she said the state documented almost 250 bald eagle nesting pairs and 222 of them were "active" pairs, meaning they laid eggs. The numbers are similar to those of 2020 when the state had 220 bald eagle nesting pairs.
"The recovery is huge for New Jersey, one of the biggest success stories in conservation," she said.
Why is the bald eagle population rebounding in New Jersey?
Clark added that the rebound of the eagles is in response to the improving environment and water quality. Eagles are primarily fish hunters. So as water improved and DDT worked its way out of the system, fish and duck populations also rebounded. Eagles needed all of this to happen.
Bald eagles also need good nesting trees. Nest trees are the biggest trees in the state's landscape. The birds have to have suitable nest trees. They want them to be near their kitchen, near where they are going to hunt, she said.
Eagles are also very sensitive to human disturbance. If they see or sense someone walking near their nest, they will go into alert mode and possibly fall out of their nests.
Where can bald eagles be found in New Jersey?
When the population started to grow, the bald eagles were mainly found in the Delaware Bay region, in rural areas such as Cumberland, Salem, and Cape May counties, Clark said.
But thankfully, as of 2020, nesting pairs can be found in all 21 New Jersey counties. "I think it's a super opportunity for people to appreciate them, to go out and look up, no matter where you are in New Jersey," Clark said.
Bald eagles can especially be found near open-water areas like reservoirs, lakes, rivers, meadows, and The Meadowlands region near East Rutherford.
Are bald eagles still considered endangered?
Bald eagles were delisted from the Endangered Species List by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007. But Clark said they are still on several state endangered species lists, including New Jersey. But she said this should change with time.
Even when the bald eagles are de-listed in New Jersey, they will always have protection on the state level because they are protected on the federal level with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
That means nests will always be recognized as a very important feature for these species so they are not lost again, she said.
What are some threats to the bald eagle?
Clark said bald eagles are at the top of the food chain so any chemical contamination in the environment will, without a doubt, show up in the eagle.
Another big threat is electrocution. Look at a local electric pole. You'll notice the lines are fairly close together. An eagle's wingspan is about six feet wide, maybe wider. When an eagle lands on a pole, those outstretched wings can connect the phase wires and cause instant electrocution.
Lead poisoning is another big threat to the bald eagle in New Jersey. Clark said lead is in the environment. Lead shrapnel is in leftover gut piles from deer that are hunted. It doesn't take very much lead to kill an eagle.
Vehicle strikes also threaten these majestic creatures especially as eagles may be hunting at waterways near highways.
How can we protect the bald eagle in New Jersey?
Clark suggests viewing them from a distance. She said everyone loves wildlife. But we need to respect them. The bigger the animal, the more distance they need. To view and admire them from afar so they are not paying attention to you.
For people who fish, try not to leave any monofilm or hooks in the water because those can end up in the fish-eating birds or the birds could bring the hooks back to their nests.
She said The Bald Eagle Project in New Jersey has 130 volunteers who monitor the bald eagle nests and watch them through the nesting season.
Don't forget the "tax check-off for wildlife." Clark said as people prepare to file their 2021 taxes, she encourages them to check off for wildlife on the returns. She said this is an important source of funding for the endangered species funding because they do not get state funds.
What webcams are live to see the bald eagles in New Jersey?
Clark said a webcam is active now at Three Bridges Eagle Cam -CWF
The Duke Farms webcam is also active, and they laid their second egg on Jan. 20. Duke
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