April 7, 2020

DEP Snapshot: It’s 1982,
Fish & Wildlife Biologists Start N.J. Return of Bald Eagles with Single Chick

(20/S013) – There’s a growing family at Duke Farms. The Somerset County nature preserve is home to a pair of bald eagles and, right now, there are two chicks in the nest.

There’s a growing family at Duke Farms. The Somerset County nature preserve is home to a pair of bald eagles and, right now, there are two chicks in the nest.

The eggs containing the tiny birds of prey were discovered four days apart – Jan. 20 and 24 – and hatched separately as well. The first egg hatched on Feb. 26 and the second on March 1.

The chicks will remain in the nest until July, when they are expected to fledge, or take their first flight from the nest.

How do we know this? It’s all thanks to the Duke Farms Eagle Cam. In 2008, Duke Farms installed a web cam on a tree adjacent to the bald eagle nest on its property. The Eagle Cam has since provided a live look at the daily lives of the eagles, with more than 10 million viewers.

The Eagle Cam is managed by Duke Farms, in collaboration with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Check out this report on the nest, posted at conservewildlifenj.org:

March 31, 2020

The oldest chick will be 5 weeks of age tomorrow and the youngest about 4.5 weeks of age. They are both getting plenty of food and getting big. You can see that the oldest chick is now developing pin feathers on his/her back and wings. The pin feathers are dark compared to the lighter colored down. The youngest chick is just starting to get a few pin feathers. Pin feathers are new feathers that have a blood supply flowing through them and are encased by a keratin coating or feather sheath. The feathers take several weeks to fully develop.

To get a live bird’s-eye view of the nest and the new chicks through the Eagle Cam, click here.

And now, a look at 1982 …

In the 1960s and ’70s, it was widely recognized that the bald eagle – the national emblem of the United States since 1782 – was in trouble. Decades of hunting and pesticide use had brought the bird’s population to the verge of extinction. In particular, widespread DDT contamination had seriously impacted the reproductive health of bald eagles, causing eggshell thinning and rendering their eggs unable to withstand normal incubation, a phenomenon famously documented in Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring.”

By the early ’80s, there was only one nesting pair of bald eagles left in New Jersey. In the spring of 1982, DEP biologists from the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program removed an egg for artificial incubation and successfully reintroduced the young chick back into its nest. It was the first time such an effort had been effective.

Over the next decade, strategies such as this fostering technique – combined with a release program that introduced 60 young eagles into New Jersey over an eight-year period — began to bear steady fruit. The state gained its second nest in 1988 and, by 2002, there were 34 known breeding pairs. In 2019, there were 190 known active pairs, producing a total of 249 young bald eagles.

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