Bald Eagle Fledgling Makes History

America’s favorite bird, the bald eagle, continues to make a comeback from the brink of extinction — most recently, in Santa Cruz County.

By Diane Terry

July 15, 2014—A bald eagle pair has recently been announced as the proud parents of Santa Cruz County’s first fledgling in decades, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Just west of Watsonville, the dark brown juvenile was nurtured for months in a eucalyptus tree above a slough, and has recently been seen taking flight with her parents. She doesn’t stray much from her protective parents; it will be a about a year until she does so. Until then, they’ll be showing her the ropes, teaching her to fly and hunt fish.

According to biologist Gary Kittleson, the change in geography from wetlands to small lakes around the slough, therefore encouraging the increase of carp and bass, has created the perfect breeding grounds. A lot of factors are involved in our local success story, but giving the bald eagles privacy is an important one. The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, which protected the land surrounding the nesting site, gave the bald eagle pair the privacy they needed to mate and raise their chick.

This is a huge moment in conservation history; the Ventana Wildlife Society spent 15 years reintroducing the species after the pesticide DDT — causing thin, breakable eggshells — had greatly diminished the whole species. The Sentinel reports that around the time the pesticide was banned, the lower 48 states were left with a mere 450 bald eagle pairs, but massive conservation efforts have resulted in the lower 48’s now boasting 12,000 pairs.

Despite the well-deserved celebration, the conservation efforts don’t stop here. The relationship between pesticides and water or wildlife health is still full of unknowns, and our current drought can result in habitat changes for the bald eagles as well.


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