Bald eagles raising young in Vermont

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(Host) Fish and Wildlife officials say a pair bald eagles is raising a family on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River.

Until now, Vermont was the only one of the 48 contiguous states without nesting bald eagles.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) The eagles have set up housekeeping high in the branches of a white pine a stone’s throw from the Connecticut River. The nest is on private land in Springfield.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Biologist Steve Parren says it’s impossible to see into the nest, but it appears the adult bald eagles are feeding at least two fledglings.

(Parren) “We’ve been watching for this kind of behavior, actually, for a number of years and we just have never seen adults attending young.”

(Zind) Parren says the young birds are probably small enough to be held in two cupped hands, but they’ll grow quickly and by the end of their first year, they’ll have wingspans of more than six feet

That’s if they survive. Parren says the mortality rate for young bald eagles is about sixty percent. Officials aren’t releasing the exact location of the nest in order to prevent too much human activity near the nest.

Once they establish a nesting site, adult bald eagles return to it year after year. Parren says the hope is the young they raise will nest in the same general area once they mature.

He says the state will continue a bald eagle restoration project in the Champlain Valley. The project is entering its third year.

(Parren) “What we’re doing now is we’re sort of jump-starting the restoration that I think will happen eventually, anyway. Hopefully, this will help Lake Champlain build up an eagle population.”

(Zind) So far, 19 young bald eagles have been introduced at the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison. More will be brought in as early as this weekend. It takes bald eagles five years to reach sexual maturity, so none of the birds has yet to raise young.

Nationally, the bald eagle population dropped dramatically after 1950 probably due to the use of pesticides. Restoration efforts have largely been successful in restoring the population. Biologist Steve Parren says it’s likely the birds nesting in Springfield are the result of a Massachusetts restoration project.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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