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Bald Eagles Year Round in Vermont

1-2-14 bald eagle2  033Biologists estimate that there were up to 500,000 Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in North America when the first European settlers began arriving. Seventy-five years ago you wouldn’t have seen a single Bald Eagle in the state of Vermont. Thanks to the banning of DDT in North America, an effective reintroduction program in Vermont between 2004 and 2006, and the protection of Bald Eagle breeding and wintering habitat through the Endangered Species Act, Vermont now has a healthy breeding population of eagles. This summer 16 Bald Eagles nested in Vermont and 26 young eagles fledged. Winter records of Bald Eagles reflect this increase as well – 24 eagles (13 of which were immature birds) were found in the 2013 annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey in Vermont, with the largest numbers occuring near open water, such as Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River, where the eagles have access to fish. (You can also find them at frozen lakes where there generous ice fishermen.) Eagles are still listed as endangered in Vermont, but they are off the national Endangered Species list, and biologists say they should soon be off the state endangered list as well.

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7 responses

  1. Marilyn

    Eagles taking advantage ice fishermen’s offerings – interesting!
    With the backup of open water fishing (for the eagle) within reasonable distance?

    January 2, 2014 at 1:34 pm

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    On the island where I live in Maine bald eagles are thriving. There are three nests on our 6X2 mile island alone, with others on nearby smaller islands. Eagles do not eat much fish anymore – instead, they prey on seabirds. I have seen them kill gulls, eider ducks, and other smaller ducks. And when I took my school group of island children to forage for bones under eagle nests to find out what the eagles are feeding their young (after nesting season), all we found were bird bones. Eagles have become a problem on offshore nesting islands. They fly out there to take eggs and chicks. Terns seem to be able to drive them off successfully, but Maine’s population of great cormorants is succumbing to eagle predation rapidly. Maine wildlife biologists interested in sustaining seabird populations grumble about eagle control. Of course the reason for all this is that we have fished out the groundfish the eagles used to depend on, so the eagles have turned to other foods.

    January 2, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    • Fascinating, Kathie. I know they are starting to become a problem with loon chicks here,as well, in the summer.

      January 2, 2014 at 10:24 pm

  3. Around here in MA (CT river and Quabbin reservoir) I’ve heard they have been taking domestic cats. They have to eat something and if other food is not available, they will make do with what is available. Once a food source is recognized, I suppose they build on initial successes. These above bodies of water still have ample fish so I expect they are still feeding on those as well. Quabbin has huge fish and a man told me of seeing an eagle pull out one as big as a man’s arm – this guy doesn’t usually tell fish tales! 😉

    January 2, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    • I’ve also seen them gathered on the ice in winter, consuming the carcass of a deer, which I gather is common practice on Quabbin. They’ve started being a problem with loon chicks here in Vermont and New Hampshire, unfortunately.

      January 2, 2014 at 10:25 pm

      • It is sad how we’ve messed up the balance of Nature. How will we ever make it right again, if ever? If I think about it too much, I despair.

        January 2, 2014 at 11:50 pm

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