2018 CEQ Annual Report

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Rivers + Reservoirs

Rivers, Streams & Rain                Bald Eagles                 Drinking Water

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Bald Eagles

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Bald Eagles continued their dramatic surge (and Osprey are doing well, too).



Bald Eagles had stopped breeding in Connecticut in the 1950s. The species declined throughout the lower 48 states and was declared endangered in 1967. A variety of environmental conditions harmed the eagle, including the widespread use of certain chemicals (chlorinated hydrocarbons) that accumulated in its prey (mostly fish). When those chemicals were banned and polluted waterways were improved, the Bald Eagle was able to reproduce again. Young eagles were reintroduced into nearby states in the 1980s, and a pair found their way to Connecticut in 1991 and successfully raised a family in 1992. In 2000, there were known to be eight nesting adults. Many more have since found acceptable nesting habitat on land protected by government and private landowners including utility companies and land trusts. DEEP monitors the eagles with the assistance of the Bald Eagle Study Group and other volunteers. 

The population of Bald Eagles is included as an indicator because the eagle is representative of species, especially predators, which share similar habitat requirements: 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.

Bald Eagles can be seen fairly frequently where for decades they were scarce. On one morning in January of 2019, for example, 22 Bald Eagles were reported by experienced birdwatchers at various sites around Connecticut.  Last year, Connecticut’s mid-winter survey recorded 167 bald eagle sightings at 142 locations throughout the state. 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.

Another large fish-eating bird of prey, the Osprey, has rebounded in similar fashion. From a low of nine nesting pairs in 1974, Ospreys -- counted by the Connecticut Audubon Society's volunteers -- were seen at more than 416 active nests, meaning they were occupied by an Osprey pair. The 416 active nests fledged 725 Osprey in 2018, an increase of 5.5 percent in the number of active nests in the state and an increase of 19.4 percent in the number of fledglings from 2017. The Council once included Osprey population data in these annual reports, but discontinued that indicator when the Department of Environmental Protection stopped counting them in 2004. Now that the Connecticut Audubon Society and its volunteers have started their census-taking, the Council intends to publish annual numbers after a few years of data are collected.

Osprey over Fairfield

What is the Source of the Goal?
The 1983 Northern States Bald Eagle Recovery Plan, prepared by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, established a goal for Connecticut of 20 breeding birds (10 nests), which was reached for the first time in 2005. According to experts in the Bald Eagle Study Group, Connecticut could eventually host up to 200 nesting eagles (100 nests). (See page nine of the linked document.)