Bald Eagles Flourishing At Channel Islands National Park

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Bald eagles are spreading throughout the Channel Islands/NPS file photo

Just as the island fox is flourishing at Channel Islands National Park off California's coast, so are bald eagles, which are now nesting on San Clemente Island.

The nest spotted on the island is the first bald eagle nest seen there in more than 50 years, according to park officials. This discovery means that bald eagles have reestablished territories now on five of the eight Channel Islands following their disappearance from the islands in the early 1960s, due primarily to DDT contaminants in the food chain.

"This news is very gratifying. I expect to see bald eagles return to all eight of the Channel Islands within a few years which will mark yet another milestone in their successful recovery," said Dr. Peter Sharpe, who has spent 18 years working on bald eagle recovery efforts through the Institute for Wildlife Studies.

Although it does not appear there were any chicks this year in the San Clemente nest, park officials say it is an encouraging find to know that bald eagles now occupy the majority of their historic territories on the Channel Islands.

Overall, this year's bald eagle season yielded 16 breeding pairs with 14 chicks joining the population of more than 60 resident eagles on the Channel Islands. There were nine active nests established this season within Channel Islands National Park with ten chicks. On neighboring Santa Catalina Island, there were seven active nests with four chicks fledging including a new pair nesting east of Two Harbors.

The two birds that established a nest on San Clemente Island trace their origins to Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands. The female is a ten-year old eagle known as A-32 who hatched in a nest in Juneau, Alaska, in 2004. She was released on Santa Cruz Island that same year as part of a bald eagle reestablishment program funded by the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program. The male is a seven-year-old known as K-76. He hatched in an artificial incubation facility on Santa Catalina Island and then was fostered into a nest at Twin Rocks.

From 2002 to 2006, 61 bald eagle chicks were released on the northern Channel Islands as part of this reestablishment effort. In 2006, a milestone was reached when the first eagle chick hatched naturally on Santa Cruz Island in over 50 years.