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Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725
SANTA CRUZ ISLAND, CA – Less than three weeks after welcoming the first bald eagle chick that hatched unaided on the Channel Islands in more than 50 years, restoration biologists have yet another reason to celebrate. Earlier this week, a second chick broke through its eggshell and into the world, nestled in a grassy spot on the south side of Santa Cruz Island off southern California.
Biologists first discovered the nest in early April during routine monitoring of the island’s birds, which are fitted with satellite transmitters before they learn to fly. Instead of moving about her territory as usual, one female spent several consecutive days and nights in one spot. After hiking to the remote location to check on the bird, biologists found a surprise awaiting them – not only was the bird nesting, she was nesting on the ground.
While bald eagles in some areas of Alaska and Canada will nest on the ground, ground nesting is a rare occurrence overall. Bald eagles on the Channel Islands and throughout the U.S. mainland typically nest high in trees or on cliffs. Only one other instance of ground-nesting bald eagles has been reported in the contiguous 48 states.
“These hatchings are a hopeful sign for bald eagle restoration efforts on the Channel Islands,” says Dave Garcelon, president of the Institute for Wildlife Studies, which has been releasing and monitoring bald eagles on Santa Cruz Island since 2002.
Funded by the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP), a multi-agency effort to restore resources injured by DDT and PCB releases in the mid-20th century, the bald eagle reintroduction effort aims to determine whether eagles released on the northern Channel Islands are far enough away from the source of contamination to reproduce without human intervention. Before the two chicks hatched this year, the last known successful nesting of a bald eagle on the Channel Islands was in 1949 on Anacapa Island.
“The success of this pair is particularly exciting, since the female is the first eagle we released on the northern Channel Islands that has nested successfully,” says Annie Little, MSRP bird biologist.
Says Little, “Once we are able to see multiple breeding attempts across multiple years, we will have a better picture of how or if DDT contamination is affecting eagles on the northern Channel Islands, and whether or not the eagle population can successfully survive on its own.”
“With each new succesful bald eagle nest on the Channel Islands we are a step closer to seeing the recovery of these magnificent birds to their historic homeland,” says Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Russell Galipeau.
Both chick and parents will be monitored closely in the coming months. In approximately 8 weeks, biologists will tag the chick with a wing marker and metal leg bands that identify it as a Santa Cruz Island native, and fit it with a satellite transmitter to record its movements once it learns to fly just a few weeks later.
This bald eagle reintroduction study is part 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 is overseen by 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 the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program can be found at: www.montroserestoration.gov.
Santa Cruz Island lies within Channel Islands National Park and is jointly managed by The Nature Conservancy, which owns the western 76% of the island where both bald eagle nests occur, and the National Park Service, which owns the eastern 24% of the island, where the hack towers for introducing new bald eagles are found.