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Bald eagles and ospreys continue their dramatic comeback!

The 2023 mid-winter survey in Connecticut recorded 185 eagles throughout the state. Since 1980, observations of eagles during the Midwinter Eagle Survey have increased significantly.59 The number of eagles recorded in 2023 was five percent greater in 2022 and approximately 20 percent greater than the previous ten-year average.

Bald eagles are a representative species that 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. 

In 2022 (most recent data*), there was a record number of bald eagles active territories in the state, with at least 82 active territories across 67 towns. Over the past three decades, at least 933 chicks have been produced by Connecticut nests.60

By the 1950’s, the bald eagle was no longer a nesting species (extirpated) in Connecticut. The bald eagle was first declared an endangered species with the passage of the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973. Populations eventually began to recover due to the ban on the pesticide DDT over five decades ago; the successful reintroduction programs of fostered chicks and fledglings; and habitat and nest protection measures. In 1995, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) reclassified the bald eagle from endangered to threatened in the lower 48 states. Populations continued to recover enough that, in 2007, the bald eagle was officially removed from the federal Endangered Species List; however, bald eagles are still protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. When Connecticut's first official Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern Species List was passed in 1992, the bald eagle was classified as “endangered”. Because of the increase in nesting pairs in recent years, the bald eagle's status in the state was reclassified as “threatened” in 2010.61

Goal: The goal for bald eagles is derived from the 1983 Northern States Bald Eagle Recovery Plan, prepared by the USFWS. 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).


Quick Summary - Check Check DashAnother large fish-eating bird, the osprey**, has rebounded in similar fashion to the eagle. From a low of nine nesting pairs in 1974, ospreys, counted by the Connecticut Audubon Society's volunteers, were seen at more than 688 active nests in 2023, meaning they were occupied by an osprey pair. The active nests produced 881 observed fledglings, which resulted in a productivity rate of 1.28 fledglings per active nest.62

Osprey, also known as the “fish hawk” feed primarily on fish; consequently, osprey nests are typically located along the Connecticut shore or proximate to water.

Map of Connecticut with locations of known osprey nests 

Goal: There is no established goal for ospreys in Connecticut, but ospreys, like eagles, are a “sentinel species,” meaning their health indicates the health of the environment around them.


Technical Note: *Due to reduced staffing levels in the Wildlife Division and the prolific expansion of eagle nesting territories in the state, breeding data from 2023 has not been finalized at the time of this report.Territories are resource areas used by eagles that have only one active nest. **Data on fledglings for osprey for 2014 was not available. Osprey counts in 2020 might have been affected by the COVID 19 pandemic and might not be complete.


59  DEEP, Wildlife Division, Wildlife Diversity Program, and State and Tribal Wildlife Grants programs; personal communication from B. Hess, February 29, 2024.

60 DEEP, CT Bald Eagles, 2022 Statewide Summary, Wildlife Division, Wildlife Diversity Program, and State and Tribal Wildlife Grants programs; personal communication from B. Hess, January 3, 2023.

61 DEEP, Wildlife Division, Bald Eagle; portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Wildlife/Fact-Sheets/Bald-Eagle.

62  The Connecticut Audubon Society, Osprey Nation 2023 Season Report, November 15th, 2023; www.ctaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Final-Osprey-Nation-Report-2023.pdf.