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Eagles Thriving in Empire State

Bald eagles reach adult size about 12 weeks after hatching. (USFWS/Public-Domain-Image.com)
Bald eagles reach adult size about 12 weeks after hatching. (USFWS/Public-Domain-Image.com)
June 21, 2016

NEW YORK -- New York's bald eagle population is on the rebound.

Monday was National American Eagle Day, and for the second year in a row, three bald eagle fledglings have taken flight at the Nature Conservancy's Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island. Mike Scheibel, manager of the preserve, said that is real cause for celebration.

"We are witnessing one of the most remarkable conservation success stories of our time," he said, "due in large part to the removal of DDT from widespread agricultural use."

DDT, a potent insecticide that interferes with birds' ability to reproduce, was banned in 1972. Fifty years ago, bald eagles had all but disappeared from New York. According to Scheibel, back then the eggs laid by a nesting pair near Hemlock Lake in upstate New York were no longer hatching.

"By 1965 it was the last known bald eagle nest in New York state," he said, "so we were essentially down to nothing; one pair of eagles that was experiencing continued nesting failure."

In 1976, the Department of Environmental Conservation began bringing young birds in from other states to rebuild the population, and there are now an estimated 350 nesting pairs in the state.

Scheibel likes to point out that groundbreaking work that made the connection between DDT and declining bird populations was done on Long Island.

"I think the lesson is that it's good to think globally, as they say," he said, "but it's a reminder to us all that conservation can and does start locally."

More information is online at nature.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY