Bald Eagles Continue Their Comeback on the Channel Islands
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725
SANTA CRUZ ISLAND, CA – Today, biologists and dedicated eagle enthusiasts watched as a bald eagle chick hatched unaided on Santa Cruz Island, off the coast of California. On the heels of two chicks last year on Santa Cruz Island, and four on Catalina Island within the last two weeks, this eaglet marks yet another exciting milestone in the restoration of bald eagles to the Channel Islands.
“Each new successful nest brings us a step closer to seeing the recovery of bald eagles on the Channel Islands,” said Dr. Peter Sharpe, a biologist with the Institute for Wildlife Studies (IWS). “It’s been an incredibly busy and exciting two weeks!”
Worldwide web viewers, including many Ventura County students, shared in the excitement as they watched events unfold via a solar-powered webcam that broadcasts live video and audio of the nest over the Internet.
Regan Nelson, third grade teacher at Lemonwood School in Oxnard Elementary School District, has been following the live video link faithfully, having students observe eagle behavior and record daily observations on the EagleCAM discussion board. Nelson said, “For my students this experience has exposed them to a world that they have never seen before and I hope it will connect them to nature and science throughout the rest of their lives.”
Over 30 bald eagles are currently residing in Channel Islands National Park as a result of a restoration program begun in 2002. Several of the birds are old enough to reproduce and IWS biologists are actively searching for additional bald eagle nests as there could be breeding as late as mid-May.
The parents, a 6-year-old male and 5-year-old female, made headlines last year when their chick (A-49) hatched. It was the first bald eagle chick to hatch on the Channel Islands unaided by humans in over 50 years. A-49, now a year old, was tracked flying on the mainland near Santa Barbara recently.
Prior to 2006, the last known successful nesting of a bald eagle on the Northern Channel Islands was in 1949 on Anacapa Island. Bald eagles disappeared from the Channel Islands by the early 1960s, due to human impacts, primarily pollution. Millions of pounds of DDTs and PCBs released into the ocean off the Palos Verdes Peninsula between the 1940s and the 1970s continue to contaminate the regional food web. The effects of these chemicals are magnified in the food chain, causing bald eagles to lay thin-shelled eggs that either dehydrate or break in the nest.
The bald eagle restoration efforts on the northern Channel Islands are funded by the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP), a multi-agency program dedicated to restoring natural resources harmed by DDTs and PCBs released into the environment by Montrose Chemical Corporation and other industrial sources in Southern California in the mid 20th century. MSRP included representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, California Department of Fish and Game, California State Lands Commission, and California Department of Parks and Recreation. Further information on MSRP can be found at: www.montroserestoration.gov.
The National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy, co-owners of Santa Cruz Island, remind visitors that bald eagles are a federally protected species and that it is illegal to disturb nesting birds. Disturbances can cause eagles to accidentally break the eggs or fly away from the nest, leaving the eggs vulnerable to predators.
The Institute for Wildlife Studies, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of wildlife species, is involved in conservation projects around the world. IWS has conducted bald eagle restoration on Catalina Island for over 25 years, as well as efforts on the northern islands within Channel Islands National Park.
The EagleCAM is one of a number of educational opportunities offered as part of Channel Islands Live (CHIL), a cooperative partnership between Channel Islands National Park and the Ventura County Office of Education. Through CHIL, students have been able to watch the eagles in real time over the Internet. Teachers can then guide student learning according to state-adopted science standards. The EagleCAM and associated discussion board can be found at: http://chil.vcoe.org/eagle_cam.htm