Eleven bald eagle eggs hatch on Catalina Island

Eleven bald eagle chicks have hatched this spring in seven Catalina Island nests.

These new additions to the Island’s eagle population continue one of Catalina’s conservation success stories.

“We’re into a non-intensive monitoring phase of the eagles now,” said Peter Sharpe, Ph.D., wildlife biologist and research ecologist of the Institute for Wildlife Studies, which has worked with the support of the Catalina Island Conservancy to save the big birds of prey.

Eleven bald eagle chicks have hatched this spring in seven Catalina Island nests.

These new additions to the Island’s eagle population continue one of Catalina’s conservation success stories.

“We’re into a non-intensive monitoring phase of the eagles now,” said Peter Sharpe, Ph.D., wildlife biologist and research ecologist of the Institute for Wildlife Studies, which has worked with the support of the Catalina Island Conservancy to save the big birds of prey.

“Adults need to produce one chick per nest per year to maintain a stable population. Catalina’s population has been producing chicks above that level, so the population should continue to grow,” Sharpe said.

Four nests on the Island contain at least two hatchlings each.

The remaining pairs have produced at least one chick.

Eagle cams placed at some of the nests make it possible for the public to watch the birds on their personal computers.

The live feed can be found at www.iws.com.

In 2012, bald eagles laid 14 eggs in six nests.

Nine birds hatched and six fledged or successfully flew from their nests.

In 2011 and 2010, nine birds hatched each year from five or six nests.

Sharpe said that the Catalina population is safer than many bald eagle populations.

With the lack of extensive roads and power lines in comparrison with the mainland, and less people in general on the Conservancy-maintained wildlife refuge that covers 88 percent of the Island, the eagles have space to soar.

Sharpe said that the average eagle lives from 15 to 20 years, but one on Catalina is ancient by comparison: 27 years old.

The IWS, with the help of the Conservancy, reintroduced our nation’s symbol back to the California Channel Islands in 1980 after DDT poisoning had decimated the big birds.

The since outlawed pollutant, absorbed by the birds’ major prey, fish, was ingested by the eagles and created weak shells on the eggs that they laid.

The shells cracked under the adults’ weight during incubation.

Adult eagles began laying eggs in Catalina nests after the species reintroduction. But the eggs all broke before hatching, presumably because DDT was still in the environment.

The scientists began retrieving the eggs, hatched them in off-site incubators, and returned the chicks to the nests.

The parents accepted them back and raised them.

In 2007, IWS was not able to intervene in the process.

The scientists allowed two nesting pairs to lay, then attempt to hatch young naturally.

It turned out that DDT levels had finally decreased enough to allow bald eagles to successfully hatch eggs in the wild.

By 2008, all nests on Catalina were left to natural hatching and incubation.

Thanks to the dedication of the IWS and its staff, working in cooperation with the Catalina Island Conservancy, Catalina-native bald eagles once again soar along the Island’s cliffs.

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