Bald eagles continue to rebound in Vermont

(Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department)

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Vermont’s bald eagle population continued its recovery in 2017.

Twenty-one pairs of adult bald eagles successfully produced 35 young in Vermont in 2017, a modern-day record in the state according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. The species remains on Vermont’s endangered species list, but another strong year of growth has biologists hopeful for their continued recovery.

Bald eagles typically nest along significant water bodies where fish and other aquatic foods are readily available. In Vermont, most bald eagle nests are found along the Connecticut River, Lake Champlain, Lake Memphremagog, and some other large inland bodies of water.

In 2002, the first Vermont eagle nest was discovered after a 60-year absence. However, it wasn’t until 2008 when the first eagle fledgling successfully left its nest. Eagle numbers have been steadily increasing since then, giving hope to their full recovery in the near future.

Peregrine falcons successfully raised at least 63 young birds in 2017, according to Audubon Vermont, which monitors nesting peregrine falcons in partnership with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. This is similar to nesting success from previous years, though down slightly from a record high in 2016.

Peregrine falcons and bald eagles declined in the 20th century nationwide due to loss of habitat, disturbance to nests, and the effects of the pesticide DDT. Laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and a ban on DDT have aided in the recovery of these birds. Loons similarly faced dramatic declines as a result of shoreline development and human disturbance of their habitat.

In 2005, peregrine falcons, loons, and osprey were removed from Vermont’s state endangered species list following years of conservation effort. Bald eagles have recovered in most of the U.S., but remain on Vermont’s state endangered species list as they continue to recover locally.

Common terns, another state endangered bird species being monitored by biologists, fledged 71 chicks in 2017. Predation and erratic weather during the hatching period probably accounts for the average nesting result.

Vermont also welcomed 93 newly fledged birds to the state’s loon population, breaking the previous record of 81.

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