An annual survey of wintering bald eagles conducted throughout the Commonwealth in the past few weeks yielded sightings of 71 individual birds, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles announced.
Between 40 and 50 state and federal wildlife officials and volunteers observed birds through binoculars and spotting scopes on the ground and from the air during the two-day event, which is part of a national survey. State data are pooled with national data and used by wildlife officials to track the progress of the recovery of the bald eagle, delisted from federal threatened status in 2007.
The 2010 preliminary statewide number is 71 eagles, with 45 adults and 25 juvenile eagles and one unknown. The largest number of birds – 37 eagles – was seen at the Quabbin Reservoir.
Observers spotted 31 eagles on Friday, January 8, 2010. The remainder was observed during an aerial survey of the Connecticut River and the Quabbin Reservoir today conducted in partnership by the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission and MassWildlife.
“The bald eagle is the symbol of the United States, and for the past 30 years, this annual rite of winter has played a critical role in the Commonwealth’s successful efforts to study and protect these majestic birds and their habitat,” said Secretary Bowles.
There were six adult and three juvenile eagles spotted on the Merrimack River and three adult eagles and one juvenile at the Wachusett Reservoir. Eagles were also spotted in Fall River, Carver, Plymouth, Sandisfield, Pittsfield, and the Lakeville / Middleborough area. There was one adult eagle spotted on the Mystic Lakes in Arlington. Officials and volunteers traveled to more than nine locations across the state, from Newburyport to Pittsfield, during the two-day event.
Statewide, the number of birds surveyed has trended upward from eight birds counted in 1980 to 71 birds counted this year. There were 81 birds spotted in 2009, 76 birds in 1998, 74 birds in 2005, and 73 birds in 2008 during one-day surveys.
In the 1980s, wildlife biologists worked to restore a breeding population to Massachusetts with the first successful nesting in 1989.
Partial content from a Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs press release