John Hall photo
Twenty-three young bald eagles fledged from 15 nests in Vermont this year, according to a state biologist. The bald eagle remains on the state’s list of endangered species, but not the federal list.
Last winter’s mild temperatures and an early spring may have given Vermont’s bald eagle population a big boost, as a record number of young eagles — eaglets — were fledged.
John Buck, state wildlife biologist, said Wednesday that 23 bald eaglets successfully left their parents’ nests in August.
In 2011, the figure was 13 eaglets.
“It’s all speculation,” said Buck, “but it may have had a positive role.”
To Buck and others working on restoring the bald eagle to Vermont, this summer’s success was nothing short of monumental, considering that there were no eagles even attempting to nest in Vermont until 2002 and they hadn’t lived in the state since the 1940s.
“We’re up from zero 10 years ago,” he said.
Buck said 15 nests are located in 13 Vermont towns, with population clustered along the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain, and in one instance, Lake Memphremagog.
He said the state doesn’t give out locations of the nesting birds, but he said there were successful nests in Rockingham, Springfield, Windsor, Barnet and Concord, all along the Connecticut River; in Coventry, on Lake Memphremagog; and in Highgate, Ferrisburgh, New Haven, West Haven and Castleton, along Lake Champlain.
He said two nests were built in Wilder and Newbury but didn’t produce any young. A nest in Waterford fell down during a late spring snowstorm and the eagles didn’t return to rebuild it.
Eagles are solitary birds, he said, and human interference can scare birds off their nests, abandoning their eggs or young, he said.
Buck said it was too soon to move to take the eagle off the state’s endangered species list. He said he would want to see at least five years of strong reproduction and active nesting before moving in that direction.
“This is just one year. We want to see it sustained to make sure it’s not a fluke,” he said. While bald eagles are no longer on the federal endangered species list, they remain on Vermont’s list, Buck said.
He said two nests actually produced three eaglets, which is an indication of a good food source and a mature breeding pair. Eagles usually return to the same nest year after year, he said.
Usually, eagles produce one or two eaglets, he said. And eagles don’t attain sexual maturity until they are 5 years old, Buck said.
Steve Parren, a rare-species biologist with the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department, said Vermont’s bald eagles likely came from the Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts.
The first nesting pair was in the Rockingham-Springfield area, he said.
“I think the birds came up the Connecticut River. We’ve been monitoring eagles since the 1960s, only there wasn’t much to monitor,” Parren said. “This is a success story.”
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