Spring Success for Bald Eagles on the Channel Islands
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725
This week biologists and dedicated eagle enthusiasts watched via the Channel Islands Live EagleCAM as two chicks hatched at the Pelican Harbor nest on Santa Cruz Island, off the coast of southern California.
This is the third year of successful nesting attempts by the Pelican Harbor pair and the third and fourth eagle chicks they have hatched unaided in the wild. Their parenting skills may be challenged as this is the first time they have had two chicks to feed. However, bald eagles commonly raise between one and three young.
Just prior to the first chick hatching on Tuesday morning, April 1, 2008, the six-year-old female adult eagle was seen fidgeting between the sitting and standing position as she monitored the egg intently. By midday, hours after the first egg hatched, the seven-year-old male parent eagle had fed the new chick its first meal of fish.
Today, in the early morning hours, the second chick arrived and was welcomed by over 700 avid eagle enthusiasts who watched the drama live via the Internet. Over the next three months the public can observe the behaviors and growth of the new eagle chicks prior to their fledging expected sometime in mid-June.
“It is thrilling to see the recovery of bald eagles following their extirpation from the Channel Islands,” said Russell Galipeau, Superintendent of Channel Islands National Park. “In just six years we have progressed from releasing birds to the wild to birds being born in the wild.”
Biologists are cautiously optimistic about this trend of recovery as the chemicals that contributed to bald eagle decline persist in the southern California marine ecosystem. They hope for up to two dozen nests within the next five years— a return to historic levels of bald eagle nests on the northern Channel Islands.
Nearly 40 bald eagles are currently residing in Channel Islands National Park as a result of a restoration program that released 61 eagles between 2002 and 2006.
History of Recovery
Prior to 2006, the last known successful nesting of a bald eagle on the northern Channel Islands was in 1950 on Santa Rosa 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.
A Partnership for Bald Eagle Recovery
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.
Did You Know?
The Channel Islands are often called the "North American Galapagos" because they are home to over 150 endemic or unique species.