>Sonora / Tuolumne News, Sports, & Weather, Angels Camp, Twain Harte, Jamestown | Union Democrat

News Classifieds Web
web powered by Web Search Powered by Google

Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Bird numbers soar

Bird numbers soar

An adult bald eagle takes flight after perching on a dead tree at New Melones Reservoir. Maggie Beck / Union Democrat, Copyright 2013.
The number of bald eagles in the Mother Lode has soared this winter, particularly at New Melones Reservoir.

The Central Sierra Audubon Society counted 68 bald eagles at the reservoir during its 2012 Christmas Bird Count, which is 63 more than the previous year, according to event organizer Barry Boulton.

“It’s amazing,” New Melones Park Ranger Hilary Maxworthy said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” 

The Audubon Society and New Melones Reservoir representatives said eagles have been gathering near the Camp 9 Bridge on the middle fork of the Stanislaus River, where kokanee salmon have been spawning.

Kokanee typically spawn from August to early December, moving into inlet streams of lakes and along shores. They leave behind carcasses for the scavenging bald eagles to feed on, Maxworthy said.

The influx of bald eagles in the Mother Lode this year reflects the species’ recovery nationwide.

Bald eagle populations in the United States have slowly rebounded since reaching an all-time low in 1963, when only 417 breeding pairs were known in the lower 48 states, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

By 2011, the population had grown to nearly 10,000 pairs in the contiguous states. Bald eagles do not live in Hawaii and have thrived in Alaska.

When the U.S. adopted the bald eagle as a national symbol in 1782, there were as many as 100,000 nesting eagles, the service said.

It estimated the species experienced its first major decline in the mid-to late 1800s, coinciding with the dwindling of waterfowl, shorebirds and other prey.

While eagles primarily eat fish and carrion, they have preyed on chickens, lambs and other domestic livestock. Farmers, ranchers and other people began shooting bald eagles to protect farm animals.

In 1940, Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits killing, selling and possessing bald eagles.

Bald eagles continued to suffer after World War II, when the use of DDT pesticides on crops became widespread in the U.S.

The pesticide washed into waterways, contaminating fish and the birds who ate them. Bald eagles that consumed the pesticide were unable to produce strong egg shells, and their offspring failed to hatch, according to the service. 

The eagles were listed as an endangered species in most U.S. states in 1978. The phase out of  DDT spurred a recovery.

The bird was considered a “threatened” species — no longer “endangered” — in July 1995 until June 2007, when its recovery was officially announced.

The bald eagle is still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibit the killing, selling or otherwise harming of bald and golden eagles, their nests and their eggs.

Follow UnionDemocrat.com

Get Today's Top Headlines to your inbox

The Union Democrat print edition

The Union Democrat 12/01/15

View Paper

The Union Democrat is now online in a Replica E-edition form and publishes Tuesday through Saturday. E-Edition or Print Plus subscribers have full access.


If you are not a current subscriber, subscribe today for immediate access. Circulation: 209-533-3614

View all The Union Democrat print publications

Weekender by The Union Democrat

Weekly Arts and entertainment guide for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties

Weekender 11/26/15

View Guide

Available online every Friday or get it early in Thursday's print edition.

View past copies of the weekender

Local / Sports / Business / Stocks / News of Record / State / Nation/World / Obituaries / Submit News
Editorials / Letters
Union Democrat Photos / Community Photos /
Search Classifieds / Jobs / Autos / Homes / Rentals / Place an Ad
Online Extras
Weather / Local Business Links / Community Links / Photo Reprints
Union Democrat
About / Contact / Commercial Printing / Subscriptions / Terms of Use / Site Map

© Copyright 2001 - 2015 Western Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. By Using this site you agree to our Terms of Use