Bald Eagle Management
A national ban on DDT in 1972, prohibitions against taking or killing bald eagles in the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the initiation of New York's Endangered Species Program in 1976 began a dramatic turnaround for our national symbol.
Through the work of New York's program and those in other states and Canada, the magnificent bird that symbolizes our nation is coming back from the brink of extinction. Higher population levels and successful reproduction mean the bald eagle is on firmer footing today than it has been for half a century. In fact, efforts have been so successful that the bald eagle has been removed from the Federal Endangered Species List. Its status in New York has been changed from Endangered to Threatened. Today, more than 170 pairs of eagles nest in the state!
In New York, the bald eagles' success story is the result of several DEC programs:
- restrictions on the use of toxic substances that interfere with the birds' breeding
- intervention to protect and restore the species in the wild
- protection of critical eagle habitat
- research, monitoring and management of eagles in the wild
NYSDEC's plan focuses on providing continued opportunities to enjoy all the benefits of the wildlife within the State. This is achieved through scientifically sound management of wildlife species in a manner that is efficient, consistent with law, and in harmony with public need.
How You Can Help
For details about New York's Bald Eagle Program activities, read the program annual reports in the right-hand column. If you want to help protect and manage bald eagles, sign up to participate in the Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey (link leaves DEC website) or report your observations of bald eagles to DEC.
Keeping New York's Eagles Healthy
With a viable population of bald eagles re-established, the DEC bald eagle program now concentrates on:
- understanding the problems faced by eagles in New York;
- identifying, managing and protecting essential breeding and wintering habitats;
- identifying movement patterns, migratory pathways and the locations where New York's wintering eagles breed;
- monitoring contaminant levels in eagles in New York;
- identifying causes of mortality in bald eagles;
- monitoring developments that might affect eagles and their habitats, and providing mitigation where needed; and
- protecting eagle habitat.
Bald Eagle Research
DEC's eagle program participates in a variety of research programs. The national Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey (link leaves DEC website) includes both aerial and ground observation conducted by DEC and public cooperators. In cooperation with the National Park Service, DEC is involved in a multi-year intensive study to determine the essential habitats and behaviors of bald eagles on the Upper Delaware River.
DEC has been satellite-radio tagging migrant bald eagles since 1992, and is now tagging fledglings from New York State nests with solar-powered transmitters. By observing the tagged fledglings, DEC learns: location of home ranges; how the birds move across the landscape during initial dispersal from the nest and later; how many young birds survive; differences in movements, essential habitats and nest site selection between nest-mates, between genders and among nestlings from neighboring nests. Results of DEC's bald eagle research are reported annually.
Monitoring and Management
New York's eagle program features intensive searching for and confirmation of new breeding pairs, along with monitoring of known breeding pairs of bald eagles. Program staff try to verify every report of adult eagles during the nesting season, to locate or confirm any new nests, and to visit every known bald eagle nesting location in the state.
These nest visits have several purposes:
- inspect the integrity of nests
- assess protection/management needs of the site
- collect blood samples from select locations
- collect addled eggs
- obtain a GPS (global position system) location
- determine site conditions and management needs
- predator-proof the nest tree
- identify and collect prey items
- interact with landowners and garner their support
- inspect any eaglets for disease, parasites or deformities
- band the young
- determine annual productivity
The Loss of New York's Bald Eagles
During the 1800s and early 1900s, New York was home to more than 70 nesting pairs of bald eagles, and was the chosen wintering grounds of several hundred. By 1960, the state had only one known active bald eagle nest remaining, and the number of wintering visitors had been reduced to less than a few dozen.
It had taken decades of indiscriminate killing, along with increasing competition for habitat and the widespread use of harmful new chemicals, to nearly destroy New York's bald eagles. Just as human activity was disrupting more and more eagle habitat, DDT and other organochlorine compounds were contaminating prey species and accumulating in the eagles' bodies. This contamination led to the thinning of their eggshells until they could no longer survive incubation.
To learn more about how bald eagles returned to New York, visit the Bald Eagle Restoration in New York webpage.