Vermont’s bald eagle population rebounds
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | October 04,2012
John Hall photo
Twenty-three young bald eagles fledged from 15 nests in Vermont this year, giving Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department biologists hope the birds can be removed from the state list of endangered species in the near future.
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 this 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, seeing how that there were no eagles even attempting to nest in Vermont until 2002, and none had lived in the state since the 1940s.
“We’re up from zero 10 years ago,” he said.
Buck said 15 nests are now located in 13 different Vermont towns, with populations 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; and in Coventry, on Lake Memphremagog; and 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 snow storm 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 that 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 federal endangered species list, it remains on Vermont’s list, Buck said.
He said that 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 only attain sexual maturity when they are five years old, Buck said.
Steve Parren, a rare species biologist with the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department, said that 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.”