Bald eagles continue their dramatic comeback; Ospreys are doing well, too.
In 2019, Connecticut’s mid-winter survey recorded 51 bald eagle nests throughout the state. This represents an increase from 2018 and more than the average over the previous ten years. The population of bald eagles is included as an indicator because the eagle is representative of species, which require large areas of relatively undisturbed land near rivers or lakes where the birds can find adequate supplies of fish and other prey that are – very importantly – only minimally contaminated. Eagles spend their winter mostly along larger rivers where they have become a regular sight. Iced-over rivers to the north can push more eagles south to Connecticut. The federal government removed the bald eagle from its list of threatened and endangered species in 2007. In 2010, Connecticut changed the eagle's in-state status from endangered to threatened.
Goal: The goal for bald eagles is derived from the 1983 Northern States Bald Eagle Recovery Plan, prepared by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The Plan established a goal of 20 breeding birds (10 nests) for Connecticut. According to experts in the Bald Eagle Study Group, Connecticut could eventually host up to 200 nesting eagles (100 nests).
Earth Day Retrospective: Since 1979 observations of bald eagles (nesting and not) during the Midwinter Eagle Survey have increased over 400 percent. In 1967 bald eagles south of the 40th parallel were listed by the Secretary under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. The banning of DDT by the U.S. EPA in 1972 and conservation efforts (captive breeding programs, reintroduction efforts, law enforcement, and nest site protection during the breeding season) by federal, state and private organizations resulted a remarkable population rebound to the point that bald eagles no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act.*
Another large fish-eating bird of prey, the osprey, has rebounded in similar fashion to the eagle.
Earth Day Retrospective: From a low of nine nesting pairs in 1974, ospreys -- counted by the Connecticut Audubon Society's volunteers -- were seen at more than 501 active nests in 2019, meaning they were occupied by an osprey pair. The 501 active nests fledged 650 ospreys in 2019, an increase in the number of active nests of 20 percent, but a decrease of 10 percent in the number of fledglings from 2018.
Goal: There is no established goal for osprey in Connecticut, but ospreys are a “sentinel species,” meaning their health indicates the health of the environment around them. Ospreys are being monitored by DEEP and the Connecticut Audubon Society.
Technical Note: * U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fact Sheet Natural History, Ecology and Recovery