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Home > Wildlife > Species Information > Maine Endangered Species Program > Maine's Bald Eagle > Weekly Updates on Maine's Eagles
Weekly Updates on Maine's Eagles: throughout the year 2007
Charlie Todd, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (MDIFW)
Check periodically for updated tallies of eagles nesting in Maine as the statewide inventory continues through the spring. Numbers of traditional territories surveyed and the census of nesting pairs are summarized below by county.
We sequence survey flights to match the timing of eagles breeding across Maine. As of April 15, we have almost completed initial reconnaissance of traditional nests in coastal regions. Adverse weather disrupts aerial surveys of eagle nests and we will await the major Nor’easter before finishing up in coastal Knox County.
Searching efforts for new nesting pairs are intensified once priority monitoring of known eagle territories is complete. Some empty nests are rechecked for late nest initiations or residency of pairs not actively breeding (and therefore hard to census).
Do you know of a nest location or see adult eagle(s) regularly in spring – early summer? If so, contact MDIFW to aid our monitoring and recovery program for bald eagles.
A harsh end to winter is certainly challenging nesting eagles and the biologists who monitor them in 2007. The totals and distribution will steadily increase as the season progresses. Most of interior Maine will be surveyed later in April. As of April 15, we have tallied 272 nesting pairs. Here are our preliminary findings:
Bald eagle nesting in Maine, 2007 (as of June 14)
July 17, 2007
Bald Eagles removed from list of species protected under U.S. Endangered Species Act!
On June 28, 2007 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that the bald eagle will be removed from the federal list of Threatened Species throughout its range in the continental U.S. The species was first listed as an Endangered in 1967 across all southern states (below the 40th parallel). The northern tier of the continental U.S. was added in 1978 when bald eagles were designated as Endangered in 43 states (including Maine) and as Threatened in the remaining five (MI, MN, OR, WI, and WA).
The designation “Endangered” implies a species is in peril across its listed range, while the lesser category “Threatened” indicates jeopardy of becoming endangered. By 1978, only 791 nesting pairs of bald eagles could be documented in the lower 48 states. Historical estimates imply there had once been more than 100,000 nesting pairs in that region. While the species was never listed in Alaska or most of Canada, there was certainly a risk that our national symbol would vanish from most of its historic range.
Recovery plans were outlined for 5 regions of the U.S., and Maine was included in the Northern States Recovery Plan. Agencies, researchers, conservationists, and landowners began decades of programs to safeguard our national symbol. Most wildlife programs placed high priority on eagle population monitoring, habitat protection efforts, studies of environmental contaminants, and special population manipulations as warranted in specific areas to advance bald eagle recovery. Steady progress enabled “downlisting” of bald eagles (from Endangered to Threatened) across the lower 48 states in 1995.
By 2006, bald eagle numbers had rebounded to at least 9,789 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states. USFWS proposed eagle reclassification, national habitat management guidelines, a definition of “disturb” under the Bald Eagle – Golden Eagle Protection Act, future strategies for monitoring the species, and a one-year public comment period. The recent announcement of formal “delisting” (removal of the Threatened Species designation) under federal law becomes one of the premier success stories of the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Bald eagles are still a rarity in many states, and some will continue special protection of the species under state law. In the 2006 tabulation of breeding populations in the lower 48 states (see http://www.fws.gov/midwest/eagle/population/be_prsmap_wo2006.pdf), more than 70% reside in only 10 states. Maine ranked 8th in abundance of breeding eagles amongst the lower 48 states that year and is the stronghold for the species in the northeastern U.S. In 2006, Maine’s 414 nesting pairs represented 74% of all eagles residing in New England – New York.
Strategies for bald eagle recovery in Maine:
MDIFW had to acquire annual grants and contract much of the early eagle work in the state. The creation of the Maine Endangered and Nongame Wildlife Program in 1984 made direct participation possible with a charitable donation (the “Chickadee Check-off”) on state income tax forms to generate the first state funds. USFWS continued to fund 90% of operational costs of eagle recovery in Maine for 30 years because of its strategic importance to the Northeast. Bald eagle assessments outlined management goals and strategies in 1975, 1980, 1986, and 2004. Annual monitoring of the breeding population, voluntary and regulatory efforts to protect nesting habitat, and public outreach have become constant missions. An array of researchers and land conservation partners now participate in special facets of the program in Maine.
In 1989, MDIFW established formal criteria for bald eagle recovery and details of new “Essential Habitat” rules (see below) in a management system. At present, only one outstanding hurdle remains before state reclassification of eagles. Biological parameters for delisting include viable numbers, self-sustaining levels of reproduction, and favorable population trends. A habitat “safety net” and federal delisting are additional criteria for eagle recovery in Maine. Federal delisting is considered a prerequisite because Maine is a somewhat isolated eagle population. There were no nesting eagles for many years in adjacent areas of New England or southern Quebec, and New Brunswick was the only Canadian province to list bald eagles as Endangered.
Safeguards for habitat were devised as a prudent measure to assure that a subset of broadly distributed nesting areas would remain suitable (via conservation ownership, suitable easements, or long-term cooperative agreements with landowners) regardless of special regulations. Maine has acquired special funds under the Landowner Incentive Program to implement other strategies for building the habitat safety net. When all of the criteria below are met fully, MDIFW will recommend bald eagle delisting under the Maine Endangered Species Act: a change requiring action by the state legislature … possibly in the next session.
Criteria for delisting bald eagles under the Maine Endangered Species Act:
Essential Habitat rules continue until state delisting:
The Essential Habitat provision arose as a 1988 amendment to Maine’s Endangered Species Act enabling special protection of areas currently or historically critical to species recovery. It was a remedy for subjective, inconsistent reviews of to land use changes and other new projects proposed near eagle nests when MDIFW had no formal role in the decision. First implemented in 1990, these rules outline standard criteria for judging each proposal based on local circumstances rather than hard-and-fast prohibitions. All but two of more than 250 Essential Habitat reviews were approved after safeguards for nesting eagles from project timing, buffers, and location became part of municipal and state permits. The account below “Successful management in eastern Maine” elaborates on this and other successful partnerships with landowners and conservation partners Downeast to benefit eagles.
2007 nesting survey findings:
Expanding numbers of nesting eagles are evident statewide, but Maine’s eagle stronghold is still “Downeast.” Washington, Hancock, and Penobscot Counties still support 57% of the statewide population. The region boasts the highest density of nesting eagles between population centers in the Chesapeake Bay (Maryland and Virginia) and Cape Breton Island (Nova Scotia). New eagle pairs have been found this year from Dayton (York County) north to Van Buren (Aroostook County), from Bethel (Oxford County) east to Lubec (Washington County), and offshore in Monhegan (Lincoln County) to upper stretches of the Saint John River (Aroostook County): literally, the length and breadth of Maine! A breakdown of the statewide monitoring effort and eagle numbers by county documented thus far in 2007 appears below.
The net increase of only 15 pairs (over the 2006 total of 414 nesting pairs) is deceiving because of limits on survey budgets and very challenging spring weather patterns. A major snowstorm April 5 followed by the torrential rain and wind of an April 16 Nor’easter wreaked havoc with eagle nesting this year. Most Maine eagles have laid eggs by the end of March. Thus prolonged, adverse weather can readily cause amplified levels of nest loss, exposure of eggs to freezing, etc.
In turn, biologists have more difficulty locating resident eagles after nest failures so we believe that (more than most years) we are undercounting the eagle population in 2007. A national monitoring protocol was first tested in Maine during 2004, and random plots were surveyed to compare against our normal monitoring procedures and found that we effectively had found 82% of actual numbers.
Final levels of nest success and overall productivity have not yet been evaluated this year. A sample of 252 nests with known outcomes has yielded only 149 eaglets. This level of productivity (0.6 fledglings per occupied nest) is considerably below typical rates in Maine. Fortunately, the population is well-buffered against such setbacks now and not nearly as vulnerable to random influences (such as April storms) as it was for the many years when low numbers presented an inherent risk to the eagle’s future. A look back at the trends in numbers of nesting pairs and annual eaglet production over the years in Maine reveal the degree of jeopardy that loomed over Maine eagles (please see chart below).
Lessons from eagle recovery and future strategies:
However, the bald eagle still has special needs. We have no evidence that eagles can increase or even sustain their numbers without attention to shoreline habitats they require. Bald eagles, a top-level predator, are very sensitive barometers of environmental quality. Mortality factors that shorten eagle longevity can create population declines. As before, risks will be evaluated and remedies formulated … this time, before jeopardy levels escalate. Biologists would much rather focus on wildlife before facing the perils implied by Endangered and Threatened classifications. Recovery of species (if possible at all) inevitably requires decades of special efforts.
Three years ago, MDIFW Advisory Council adopted a recommendation from a public working group to target an eagle population of 600 nesting pairs in Maine by the year 2019. This objective and one to double the habitat safety net are reasonable and effective safeguards to eagle recovery. The population level translates to modest gains less than half the 8% annual growth rate achieved during peak survey monitoring and habitat protection efforts ongoing since 1990. These functions will not end but be less frequent and rely on sampling so that MDIFW can use limited budgets and staff more for other species of conservation concern. Biologists will sample relative abundance, distribution, reproduction, and nest occupancy rates of the eagle population over time to assure that setbacks do not arise. Maine will be a key state in a national monitoring protocol to conduct dual-frame sampling (like the U.S. Census Bureau) every 5 years through the year 2028.
The relationship of these indices with land conservation, private stewardship, and “unprotected” eagle habitats will be examined. Thirty years ago, there were only two eagle nesting areas on conservation land. Now there are 89 eagle pairs on lands secured in perpetuity by resource agencies and private conservation partners. The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Forest Society of Maine, New England Forestry Foundation, and the array of local chapters of the Maine Land Trust Network have negotiated many outstanding purchases or conservation easements to benefit bald eagles and our natural resource legacy for future generations in Maine. Efforts will now focus on 207 partly protected eagle habitats to assure others will remain functional landscapes in the future. The Bald Eagle – Golden Eagle Protection Act, prohibits direct harm to eagles and their nests. National habitat management guidelines were adopted to promote compliance with this federal law.
Maine’s intricate coastline and numerous inland waters may provide physical habitat for 700 - 1,000 nesting pairs. This number (= carrying capacity) could rise sharply if runs of migratory fish populations (alewives, shad, eels, etc.) improve. Current efforts to remove legal blocks to alewife passage in the Saint Croix River and proposal to remove 2 dams and bypass another with inadequate fishways in the lower Penobscot River could greatly improve food resources for eagles in much of the state. MDIFW and research partners now have clear baselines on levels of mercury and PCB residues in the eagle population. Neither of these contaminant groups has declined significantly over the last 20 years, unlike the phenomenon with DDE.
The accomplishments in bald eagle recovery programs are indeed remarkable and the most desirable end product in Endangered Species conservation, but there are no quick fixes or guarantees of success. Maine citizens, visitors to the state, and our data all agree that the steady increases in numbers and distribution of Maine’s bald eagles have greatly boosted public viewing opportunities to see and enjoy our national symbol. Please remember what was almost lost! Maine’s natural resources are invaluable.
You can help in many ways. Contributions to Maine’s Endangered and Nongame Wildlife Fund remain the only source of state funds for these programs. Direct contributions, gifts via the Chickadee Check-off on state income tax forms, or partial proceeds from purchase of a Conservation Plate for vehicles registered in Maine all are deposited in this dedicated account and provide the only state revenue to provide match money for other grants and partnerships. Your help and support are encouraged. This work is currently supported by federal State Wildlife Grants, Landowner Incentive Program funds, and state revenues from the Conservation Plate and Chickadee Check-off funds.
-Brad Allen and Charlie Todd, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Gone for 25 years
The peregrine is another species that has benefited greatly from federal / state partnerships in endangered species conservation. Formerly a breeding resident of coastal headlands and cliffs in mountainous regions, the species was extirpated from Maine and the entire eastern U.S. by the early 1960s. Like bald eagles and many other birds of prey, peregrines were the victims of DDE, a persistent by-product of the insecticide DDT. Decreased reproductive rates among peregrines persisted for decades, and worldwide threats of extinction coincided with eggshell thinning caused by this contaminant.
More than 35 nations have since conducted active programs to restore peregrine falcons. A total of 144 young peregrines produced in captive-breeding programs were successfully released at 8 different locations in Maine during the period 1984 through 1997. The Peregrine Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Acadia National Park, and MDIFW jointly conducted this venture using methods based upon traditional falconry techniques. Some peregrines reintroduced in Maine were encountered as breeding birds in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. Others have been documented as migrant visitors to points as far away as Cuba and Venezuela!
Despite these dramatic movements, others have returned to breed in Maine. A peregrine from the 1984 release in Baxter State Park found its way back to the same Penobscot County cliff in 1985 and reappeared in 1986 as the first adult peregrine searching for a home (and a mate) in Maine. The first pair of peregrines to reside in Maine for more than 25 years chose a historic eyrie, Mount Kineo in Piscataquis County, as their new home in 1987. In 1988, a second pair appeared at “The Precipice,” the Acadia National Park cliff last inhabited by peregrines before their disappearance in the 1960s. Also that year, an Oxford County cliff became the first site of successful breeding by reestablished peregrines. Small gains occurred during 1989 - 2001, but numbers of nesting peregrines did not change appreciably: 5 - 8 eyries were inhabited each year. Biologists were pleased to again have peregrines among the state’s resident wildlife, but they were perplexed by the lack of recovery progress. Periodic setbacks are a common hazard in endangered species restorations.
There is no substitute for diligence over time in these endeavors. Major improvements finally occurred in 2002. The statewide breeding count doubled in a single year. Peregrines inhabited 15 eyries in Maine during 2002. Surveys concluded in 2006 reveal the count has risen slightly to 17 nesting pairs. Monitoring is still underway in 2007, but two major April storms may have caused widespread nest failures.
A closer look reveals considerable instability in the small, recovering population. Peregrines have inhabited a total of 26 different eyries during the last 6 years. Nine vacancies may reflect the loss of an individual adult: an inherent risk from small numbers and special needs typical of endangered species such as the peregrine. Most peregrines breeding in Maine inhabit southern Oxford County near the state’s western border. New peregrine eyries were found during 2007 in Cumberland County and Knox County: the first documentation of peregrine nesting in either in at least 50 years!
A record high of 26 young peregrines fledged from ten eyries in 2002. Only 17 young peregrines were tallied in 2004 and 2005, but twenty-two fledged last year. Slight declines help validate the need for annual monitoring and site management in Maine. MDIFW and cooperating agencies manage several settings to mitigate potential recreational disturbances. There is no evidence yet of residual contaminant impacts on Maine’s re-established peregrines but the population needs careful attention to monitor this possibility or other related problems if the trend continues.
Many land managers have championed stewardship of peregrines nesting on their property: White Mountain National Forest, Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Seven Islands Land Co., Hancock Timberlands, and especially Acadia National Park. Biologists can advise rock climbers where breeding peregrines are present. Hikers and rock climbers have assisted by reported peregrine sightings during their recreational pursuits. Peregrines have proven quite adaptable, and managers have successfully maintained peregrines in some high profile settings with only modest precautions.
Maine and most eastern states are now dependent mostly on state budgets for annual peregrine monitoring and management. Major increases of peregrines in the western U.S. are largely responsible for federal delisting of peregrines in 1999, but they are still recognized as Endangered Species under state jurisdictions in Maine and throughout the eastern U.S. For those who have witnessed the spectacular flight of a peregrine (whether in Baxter State Park or downtown Lewiston), it is an event not readily forgotten. Centuries of mankind’s fascination with the peregrine as the fastest-flying bird and an accomplished predator continue on!
April 15, 2007: MDIFW wildlife biologist Charlie Todd and Maine Forest Service pilot Chris Blackie flew two days to fill in survey gaps (territories not yet monitored, rechecks, and some searches) from Cherryfield west to the New Hampshire border. MDIFW regional wildlife biologist Scott Lindsay accompanied Marine Patrol pilot Steve Ingram on April 12 in the Penobscot Bay area. Survey findings from these flights are:
April 12, 2007: Wing Goodale (BioDiversity Research Inst.) reports that loyal followers of the “eagle cam” have glimpsed a hatchling eaglet at the Hancock County nest that attracts so many Internet viewers. A collective sigh of relief soon was passed amongst bloggers that share observations at http://baldeaglecam.blogspot.com/. With so many eagle nests and conservation challenges across Maine, this nest is indeed remarkable for several reasons:
Many organizations have made this venture possible but BioDiversity Research Inst., FPL Energy Maine Hydro, and the National Wildlife Federation have championed the effort. Wing has just announced further technical upgrades to enable more viewers and even better image quality as the National Geographic Society will partner with the project. No other strategy has so readily enabled us to share the special needs of nesting eagles with millions of viewers. Tune in at http://www.briloon.org/watching-wildlife/eagle-cam.php.
April 11, 2007: MDIFW regional wildlife biologists Tom Schaeffer and Rich Bard joined Maine Warden Service pilot Daryl Gordon to monitor eagle nesting in western Hancock County: completing the preliminary inventory in the eastern half of coastal Maine. Preliminary results between Bar Harbor and Stonington are:
April 11, 2007: Biologists Dale Knapp and Bryan Emerson (Woodlot Alternatives) flew two days with contractor pilot Frank Craig to recheck the status of eagles nesting in central Maine and begin searches for new nest territories. This is a follow-up to a March 30 flight (see notes below) for special studies of eagle reproduction and contaminants. Survey findings in this region (from Plymouth west to Bethel / Lewiston north to Bingham) are:
April 10, 2007: Chris DeSorbo and Wing Goodale (BioDiversity Research Inst.) report that the 10-month old eagle equipped with a satellite transmitter is now near Cannonsville, New York. Previous stops included western Pennsylvania (see January 17 notes) and Virginia (see February 25 notes)! Bill Hanson (FPL Energy Maine Hydro) attached the unit to an eaglet at a Somerset County nest last year for studies related to federal licenses fort the a hydroelectric dam project.
April 7, 2007: MDIFW wildlife biologist Charlie Todd accompanied biologist Chris DeSorbo (BioDiversity Research Inst.) and contractor pilot Frank Craig to survey eagles nesting in upper Penobscot Bay and the Penobscot River corridor north to Baxter State Park. A special study of mercury contamination amongst bald eagles has been ordered in U.S. District Court. Survey findings in this region (from North Haven north to Ripogenus) are:
The April 5 snowstorm that covered all of Maine clearly contributed to recent nesting failures noticed at 9 territories on today’s 2 flights. Nests heavily covered with snow but a small bare spot in the center where eagles had been incubating were apparently abandoned within the last 2 days.
April 7, 2007: MDIFW wildlife biologist Tom Schaeffer and Maine Forest Service pilot Chris Blackie surveyed eagles nesting in portions of coastal Hancock County and coastal Washington County. Survey findings in this region (Bar Harbor - Jonesport) are:
April 1, 2007: MDIFW regional wildlife biologists Tom Schaeffer and Rich Bard joined Maine Warden Service pilot Charlie Later to begin the arduous, multi-day aerial surveys to monitor the “Downeast” population. The coastal waters of Washington County and Hancock County support the highest density of breeding eagles between Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia and the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland / Virginia. Bald eagles numbers continue to climb in eastern Maine, even in Cobscook Bay: the state’s only eagle stronghold 30 years ago and the likely source for eagle recovery across much of Maine and New Brunswick. In Trescott Township, they found 3 pairs of eagles nesting within ½-mile of each other, 5 active nests within 2 linear miles, and a surplus of adult eagles locally patrolling for more nest options! This is the model for healthy eagle populations. Preliminary results between Calais and Jonesport (eastern Washington County) are:
The high proportion of unoccupied territories is not cause for alarm so early in the season. The timing of reproduction can vary at neighboring nests by as much as 6 weeks here. Eagles nesting on offshore islands often initiate breeding later than those on the coastal mainland. Inclement weather (like the record-setting cold of early March, mixed precipitation typical of late winter storms, and high winds) can wreak havoc with breeding eagles or destroy nests in coastal Maine: additional hurdles for our nesting inventory. Empty nests will be checked again after a 2- or 3-week interval to refine our census estimates.
March 30, 2007: MDIFW wildlife biologist Charlie Todd accompanied biologist Michael Johnson (Woodlot Alternatives) and contractor pilot Frank Craig to survey eagles nesting in central and western Maine. Nesting eagles were absent from the Androscoggin River basin from 1971 to 1990, and eagle numbers dropped to a low of 2 nesting pairs in the Kennebec River watershed in the late-1970s. Michael is monitoring eagle reproduction by periodic flights to discover addled eggs: an important sample for contaminant studies. Only non-viable eggs that are abandoned or overdue to hatch can be legally collected. Samples are tested for organochlorines, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners, dioxins, furans, and heavy metals. Survey findings between Plymouth and Bethel / from Lewiston north to Bingham are:
This work is supported by S. D. Warren Co., New Page Corp., and Verso Paper in conjunction with discharge licenses issued by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for facilities in Hinckley, Rumford, and Jay (respectively). Contaminant research is important to safeguard against influences that once caused chronic, widespread eagle declines. Eagles are sensitive indicators of environmental quality.
The BioDiversity Research Institute and FPL Energy – Maine Hydro have partnered for 3 years of intensive investigations of mercury exposure; see http://www.briloon.org/science-and-conservation/biology-centers.php
March 27 2007: Wing Goodale and Chris DeSorbo (BioDiversity Research Institute) report that our adult eagle equipped with satellite radiotelemetry has moved from the Auburn area (see January 24 notes below) to the Eastern River in Dresden: a popular eagle “hangout” (see January 3 notes below). “It’s a small world” for bald eagles as well! Follow its progress at http://www.briloon.org/research/satellite/index.htm
March 21, 2007: MDIFW regional wildlife biologists Jim Connolly and Rusty Dyke have conducted two aerial surveys this week with Maine Forest Service pilot John Crowley: the inaugural effort of what will be more than 25 flights to monitor the statewide breeding population. Many biologists in the Wildlife Division and a small group of experienced pilots will conduct this grueling inventory effort: now just beginning. Jim and Rusty find that approximately half of the nesting territories they checked between Bangor and Brunswick are active: that is, eggs have been laid. The scope and difficulty of this survey force an early start each year. Timing is critical to this census, and some nests are monitored repeatedly in the spring to ensure reliable monitoring of population trends. Early results from these surveys are:
The highlight of today’s flight is Merrymeeting Bay: a complex coastal estuary in the lower Kennebec River basin. Once the premiere eagle area known in Maine, eagles attempting to breed there experienced 100% failure between 1963 and 1979 as the population nearly vanished altogether. For more background on Merrymeeting Bay, see Dr. John’s Lichter’s work at nearby Bowdoin College
March 13, 2007: MDIFW contracts J. W. Sewell Company to review a new concept to bolster habitat protection for bald eagles in the future. The proposal is to enlist formal cooperation of private landowners in key settings to compliment existing conservation ownerships and conservation easements. An array of agencies, conservation partners, and land trusts manage a nucleus of secure eagle habitats. This effort attempts to make sure that priority nesting areas in Maine remain suitable into the future.
The Landowner Incentive Program is a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiative to promote stewardship of endangered and threatened species on private lands. Private landowners (individuals and corporations alike) have championed eagle recovery in Maine by concessions for the special needs of breeding eagles on their property. For more information, see http://www.doi.gov/initiatives/landowner_incentive_program.html
March 6, 2007: Earnest viewers of Maine’s eagle nest Internet camera see active nesting begin at a Hancock County nest. After an announcement circulated through national media, the Web camera hosted by BioDiversity Research Institute (and aided by a host of cooperators) recorded more than 8 million hits before the server crashed partway through the day. Wing Goodale restored its operation and always seeking expanded viewing opportunities for this unique and immensely popular close-up view of nesting eagles; see http://www.briloon.org/watching-wildlife/eagle-cam.php
Last year, we were amazed by counts of up to 2.3 million hits daily on Maine’s eagle cam’ web site. Internet viewers around the world witnessed the saga of attempts to raise 3 nestlings on the Internet! Three biologists with more than 80 years of experience (Dr. Ray “Bucky” Owen, Dr. Mark McCollough, and yours truly) wrote weekly narratives that followed the sequences of eagle nesting activity through the year. This “Biologists’ Journal” is archived to aid this year viewers.
Good luck to these popular birds in 2007!
February 25, 2007: An eaglet from Somerset County is now broadcasting live from Virginia! Its satellite transmitter enables regional migration studies. Last located in western Pennsylvania (see January 17), it apparently decided this winter is now harsh enough to justify flying south to the headwaters of the Potomac River near the West Virginia border!
Along the Atlantic seaboard, young bald eagles “disperse” in various directions. Their winter range is flexible and can be adjusted in response to food availability, winter severity, etc.
February 21, 2007: Yet another Maine eagle (with its red color band) is seen near Enfield, Connecticut but again the unique alphanumeric code and key to its identity eludes observers.
February 14, 2007: Another Maine eagle (wearing a red color band on one leg) is seen near Shaftsbury, Vermont but observers are unable to identify the individual code on that band.
February 10, 2007: Several birders relayed observations of an immature eagle wearing a red color band along the Merrimack River near Manchester, New Hampshire. It is identified as second-year bird (hatch year = 2005) that Chris DeSorbo banded during his research with mercury exposure to Maine eagles at a nest in Piscataquis County.
Key study collaborators include Antioch College of New England, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, FPL Energy – Hydro Maine, and MDIFW. A preliminary report to Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection on Chris’s research can be viewed at http://www.briloon.org/research/eagles.htm
February 5, 2007: Gary Moore, a New Brunswick biologist, releases an adult bald eagle 1 mile into Canada from the Maine border. It’s been treated for a wing injury at a Fredericton clinic. Déjà vu’! This is the bird’s “third chance” because it had the same experience 13 years ago. In 1993, the same eagle was found flightless on Campobello Island, New Brunswick and brought to Lubec, Maine for treatment. I banded that bird as an adult (at least 5 years old at the time) and later released it at West Quoddy Head (the easternmost point in the U.S.) where it could easily fly back to Campobello without the rigors of the customs offices at the border bridge. The episode repeats when this bird (at least 18 years old now) creates the same havoc that you might expect of an injured eagle passing through both U.S. and Canadian customs stations.
We thank the Campobello resident who rescued the bird last fall and successfully transported it through 2 border crossings to seek its care as well as others involved in neighboring New Brunswick. Bald eagles in Maine and New Brunswick are allied in a single population regardless of political boundaries. The longevity record for a Maine eagle in the wild was one banded at an Ellsworth, ME nest in 1977 recovered dead in Shediac, NB in 2005! Each jurisdiction has benefited from the other’s conservation efforts for bald eagles.
January 24, 2007: An adult bald eagle is now near its release site in Turner where its “second chance” began 14 months ago. Again, Bill Hanson (FPL Energy – Hydro Maine) partnered with Wing Goodale and Chris DeSorbo (BioDiversity Research Institute) to track its movements by satellite radiotelemetry after the bird was returned to the wild on December 1, 2005. Its movements through southern Maine (where eagle activity is least understood) to a wintering area in northeastern Massachusetts are quite revealing!
Marc Payne and Diane Winn at Avian Haven, had rehabilitated this eagle for more than 5 months at their clinic in Freedom, ME after MDIFW Warden Andy MacDonald caught it flightless, near Auburn in June, 2005. Read their account of its recovery.
January 18, 2007: Pete Nye (New York’s lead eagle biologist) reports that they have identified one of Maine’s eagles by reading its color band at a traditional wintering area along the Delaware River on the New York – Pennsylvania border. Chris DeSorbo had banded this eagle as a nestling 6 months earlier at a nest in Franklin County, Maine.
Southeastern New York is a traditional major wintering area for bald eagles in the Northeast. Pete has followed this wintering population for more than 30 years and seen quite a few visitors from Maine over the years. He is the current team leader for the Northern States bald eagle recovery plan: see http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/recovery_plans/2006/060309b.pdf
January 17, 2007: A young bald eagle that departed its nest in Somerset County (northwestern Maine) in September 2006 is still exploring western Pennsylvania. After spending much of last fall close to Lake Erie, it has moved south into the Allegheny River basin north of Pittsburgh. It is being tracked by a satellite radio transmitter. Researchers collaborating with our program track its dispersal from Maine: Bill Hanson (FPL Energy – Hydro Maine) chose a nest on one of the company’s reservoirs, and Wing Goodale/Chris DeSorbo (BioDiversity Research Institute) have been charting its movements with weekly position updates downloaded from a satellite! Where to next?
Past research at nests in Washington County (eastern Maine) revealed that virtually all young eagles leave Maine in autumn of their first year. Many are encountered in other northeastern states along the Atlantic seaboard. The most distant (and rapid) move by a Maine eagle was a first-year eagle from a nest in Addison (Washington County) that appeared in South Carolina by late-October during its first fall of explorations (1976). Most young eagles return to their natal region in the ensuing year(s).
January 9, 2007: Don Reimer, a premier birder from Warren and long-time cooperator, reports nearly 90 wintering eagles locally in Knox County. The birds range far and wide to feed daily, but aggregate in a nocturnal roost. Don is able to count the birds as they depart the roost each morning and reports seeing 58 in a 5-minute period recently. He usually finds a golden eagle amongst the assemblage during mid or late winter each year.
In the Midwest and western U.S., wintering eagles readily aggregate whenever food supplies allow. Many eagles breeding in interior Canada and Alaska are quite migratory. They often aggregate in large winter roosts for shelter from the elements in the open landscapes prevalent in that region. Communal roosting of eagles is unusual in Maine. Shelter is readily found throughout our heavily forested state.
January 3, 2007: Charlie Todd accompanied pilot Ed Friedman (Friends of Merrymeeting Bay) to patrol numbers of eagles along the Eastern River: a hot spot for wintering eagles. Seventeen eagles were seen along a 7-mile stretch of the lower river in Dresden and Pittston: quite a sight!
Wintering eagles range across the entire state of Maine, especially ice-free waters of coastal regions. Andy Weik (biologist formerly with MDIFW, now U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) conducted the last statewide inventory of the population wintering in Maine and tallied approximately 250 eagles in 1996. Funds are inadequate to regularly survey the midwinter population, but reports of wintering concentrations areas are welcomed!
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