HARRISBURG, Pa., March 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Football fans are
sometimes superstitious about "signs" that their team may have a good
season. If that is the case, Philadelphia Eagles' fans may just have a
reason to live up to their boisterous reputation this year.
Pennsylvania Game Commission officials today announced that they have
confirmed the first known bald eagle nest in Philadelphia County in more
than 200 years. Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) Jerry
Czech, who serves Philadelphia County, reported a bald eagle nest has been
located in the City of Brotherly Love, and that Game Commission personnel
and volunteers have been monitoring the nest and documenting activity.
"We don't know if the nest will result in the pair successfully
breeding and laying eggs yet, but we are very hopeful," said Dan Brauning,
Game Commission Wildlife Diversity Supervisor, and a native of
Philadelphia. "Each year, about 20 percent of Pennsylvania's eagle nests
fail for reasons such as disturbances, predators and harsh weather.
However, our confirmation of an eagle nest within the Philadelphia City
limits demonstrates the resilience of this species and its apparent growing
tolerance to human activity. This find is an historic moment that returns
some of Pennsylvania's native wildlife to the doorstep of its largest
Brauning said that Game Commission officials will not reveal the exact
location of the nest site to avoid drawing unnecessary attention and
possible disturbance to the nest.
"In June of 2006, just in time for the Fourth of July holiday, the Game
Commission announced that Pennsylvania had -- for the first time in more
than a century -- recorded more than 100 bald eagle nests in the state,"
Brauning said. "This nest in Philadelphia, combined with other eagle
activity reports from around the state, is a good sign that we will be able
to announce even more confirmed nests this year when we provide our annual
summary in late June."
After reviewing all reports from 2006, Game Commission biologists were
able to confirm 116 active nests that produced at least 134 young, which
also marked a new record for bald eagles in Pennsylvania. So far, the
agency has received reports of at least nine new eagle nests this year.
Other Game Commission personnel are reporting bald eagle nesting
activity, such as Crawford County Land Management Group Supervisor Jerry A.
Bish, who oversees, among other State Game Lands, the Game Commission's
Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area. He noted that eagle nesting now is in
full swing and that most seem to be doing well.
"If you are interested in seeing eagles, now is the best time of year,"
LMGS Bish said. "They are concentrated at nest sites and there are no
leaves on the trees. As with all wildlife, observe it from a safe distance.
Disturbing an eagle nest can impact eagle reproduction, and is a federal
and state offense."
Crawford County WCO Mario L. Piccirilli said that bird enthusiasts are
"flocking" to the agency's Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area to view
avian raptors at this time of year.
"Numerous eagles are on their nests incubating eggs at this time," he
said. "Unfortunately, one adult eagle recently met its demise when it ran
into power lines while its mate was on the nest incubating.
"Eagles can be seen regularly in the Pymatuning, Conneaut Lake and
Linesville areas and are a sight to behold, especially the adult birds with
their distinctive white head and tail plumage. The eagles can be seen
winging their way over downtown Conneaut Lake as traffic passes directly
LMGS Shayne A. Hoachlander, who oversees SGLs in Crawford and Erie
counties, noted that some bald eagle pairs have started to incubate eggs in
nests within his district.
Erie County WCO Larry M. Smith said that, with eagles returning to
their nest sites, it is very important for people not to approach or
disturb these areas. "Everyone needs to stay out of the restricted areas at
these nest locations," he urged.
Erie County WCO Darin L. Clark reports that he was checking eagle nests
recently when he saw that one pair has already started to incubate.
Bald eagle sightings are not restricted to just southeastern and
northwestern Pennsylvania, however. Union County WCO Dirk B. Remensnyder
said that the residents of Lewisburg have been getting a good show
"Every evening, a bald eagle has been searching the river for its next
meal," WCO Remensnyder said. "So far, people have gotten to watch it take a
goose and a squirrel for its dinner."
Potter County WCO Denise H. Mitcheltree recently observed a mature bald
eagle flying over the Susquehanna River outside of Lock Haven.
"The bright white head feathers were quite reflective and certainly
caught the attention of many drivers as they craned their necks to catch a
second glimpse of this majestic bird," WCO Mitcheltree said.
In early February, Clarion County WCO Rodney E. Bimber was traveling
through Tionesta with his wife. "As we approached a bridge, two immature
eagles swooped over our car fully involved in a mating ritual," he said.
"When we returned later, one of the youngsters was sitting in a tree near
the bridge surveying the river. It is great to see the eagles making such a
strong comeback in the area."
Elk County Forester Bryce Hall noted that bald eagles have become a
fairly common sight along the Clarion River corridor in the Northcentral
Region, but he was still quite surprised to spot four mature bald eagles
perched in the same tree in the Owls Nest area of Elk County.
Forest County WCO Daniel P. Schmidt reports that he recently had the
privilege to see three bald eagles, two mature and one immature, flying in
Centre County WCO Eric L. Seth noted that a pair of bald eagles has
once again returned to Bald Eagle State Park in Centre County. "One adult
began sitting on a nest on Feb. 9, leading us to believe that incubation
has started," he said. "This pair has been very successful in the past
fledging young. Hopefully, the trend will continue this year."
Cambria County WCO Larry Olsavsky reported that visitors to Prince
Gallitzin State Park has been observing two mature bald eagles feeding on
some shorebirds. "We've deposited a few road-killed deer in the area to
keep the eagles around if the shorebirds decide to leave," he said.
LMGS Doug Dunkerely, who oversees SGLs in Beaver, Washington, Allegheny
and Greene counties, reported that bald eagle sightings are increasing in
"A mature bald eagle has been sighted on SGL 232, which was designated
an Important Bird Area in 2004," Dunkerley said. "This SGL has several
wetlands that provide excellent habitat for eagles, and are some of the key
areas where people have reported seeing it."
Northampton County WCO Brad Kreider reported that the bald eagles have
returned to the same pine tree nesting site as 2006, along the Delaware
"This is the first time in four years that the eagles have used the
same nest, and they already are sitting on eggs," WCO Kreider said.
Berks County WCO Dave Brockmeier has confirmed eagle-nesting activity
in his district. "Both mature birds have been at the nest, and I am hopeful
for another successful year," he said.
The eagle nest at the Game Commission's Middle Creek Wildlife
Management Area, however, hasn't reported any incubating activity at this
point. But, as LMGS Jim Binder noted, this particular nest tends to get a
later start than most.
"The pair has been rebuilding its nest, however, we have not recorded
any incubation at this point," Binder said. "In the last three years,
incubation began as late as March 29. Last year, the nest did not produce
any young, which raises the concern about fertility in this pair."
Northumberland County WCO Rick A. Deiterich reported that, while
crossing the Danville/Riverside Bridge, he happened to see two mature bald
eagles flying just 20 feet above the bridge deck.
"Each eagle was carrying a Canada goose in its talons," WCO Deiterich
said. "You can't really appreciate the actual size of an eagle until you
see one with a full-size goose in its talons. Although the eagles were
struggling to gain altitude with the heavy weight in tow, both were last
seen heading downstream."
Northeast Region Federal Aid Supervisor Peter F. Sussenbach, who
previously served as a WCO in Monroe County, noted that a new bald eagle
nest was discovered just a few years ago in his former district.
"The first nest documented in recent times in Monroe County was not
found on one of our large lakes or streams, but on a relatively small
mountain stream," Sussenbach said. "With this new nest in a rather unusual
location, the possibilities seem endless for suitable nesting areas
throughout the Poconos."
Other positive news for bald eagles in Pennsylvania was announced in
early-January, when the Game Commission's annual midwinter eagle survey of
Raystown Lake in Huntingdon County produced the largest number of birds
sighted since the survey began in 1990. The team documented a total of 14
birds on a 110-mile trip around the shores of the largest lake totally
within Pennsylvania's borders.
"We documented, perhaps, three distinct family units, which are adult
eagles accompanied by fledglings of the previous year," said Southcentral
Region Land Management Group Supervisor Rob Criswell, who was part of the
agency's survey team.
"Years ago when we went on this survey, any bald eagles we saw were
often specks in the sky escaping over ridges or birds that flushed a
quarter of a mile in front of us," added Southcentral Region Information
and Education Supervisor Don Garner, another survey team member. "This year
it was amazing how close we got to them, and several of the eagles never
left their perch when we traveled by. They are clearly acclimating to boat
traffic on the lake."
Southcentral Region Wildlife Management Supervisor Justin Vreeland
noted that only in recent years have eagle numbers begun to climb.
"In 1990, the first year of the survey, two eagles were logged in on
Raystown," Vreeland said. "The lowest years were 1992 and 1996, when only
one was seen. In 2001, there were eight, and last year 13. Of course
weather and several other factors will make these numbers vary from year to
year. But, the trend is very positive."
"If you are old enough to read this, then you are old enough to
remember when a bald eagle was something seen in a magazine article or TV
documentary, but never in the wild," said Huntingdon County WCO Richard
Danley, another survey team member. "We saw one directly across from the
Aitch boat launch, and the best place to go to get a glimpse of one is
probably around the dam and spillway. But, they are out there."
The Game Commission started Pennsylvania's seven-year bald eagle
reintroduction program in 1983, when three nesting pairs remained in the
Commonwealth. The agency sent employees to Saskatchewan to obtain 12
eaglets from wilderness nests in the first year. With financial assistance
from the Richard King Mellon Foundation of Pittsburgh and the federal
Endangered Species Fund, the project spurred the release of 88 Canadian
bald eagles into the wilds of Pennsylvania at Haldeman Island in Dauphin
County and Shohola Falls in Pike County.
The Game Commission, partnering with other states and the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (USFWS), helped to bring bald eagles back from the brink
of extinction with reintroductions throughout the Northeast in the 1980s.
The effort dovetailed with important gains made in improving water quality,
which led to increases in the quality and quantity of freshwater fish, a
staple in the eagle's diet. Pennsylvania's eagle resurgence also was likely
stimulated by young eagles dispersing from the Chesapeake Bay, which now
has more than 600 nesting pairs, and neighboring states that also
Bald eagles are nesting in at least 31 of the state's 67 counties,
according to preliminary census tabulations. In June of 2006, there were at
least 116 active nesting pairs (99 confirmed in 2005), and an additional 20
pairs appeared to have established territories, which typically is a
prerequisite task to nest-building. Last year, new nests were confirmed in
Bucks, Columbia, Fulton and Sullivan counties. Field staff also received
reports of new nests in Adams, Lawrence, Luzerne, Mercer, Montour and Wayne
The bald eagle is listed as a "threatened species" by the federal
government and Pennsylvania. Bald eagles were upgraded from "endangered" to
"threatened" nationally in 1995; the Pennsylvania Board of Game
Commissioners upgraded them on Oct. 4, 2005. The USFWS recently closed a
public comment period to remove the bald eagle from federal threatened
species list. However, bald eagles still would be protected by the Bald
Eagle Protection Act and other federal and state laws, even if it is
"The best scientific and commercial data available indicates that the
bald eagle has recovered," the USFWS reported in the Feb. 16, 2006, edition
of the Federal Register. "The bald eagle population in the lower 48 States
has increased from approximately 487 active nests in 1963, to an estimated
minimum 7,066 breeding pairs today."
The return of the bald eagle in both Pennsylvania and the contiguous
United States is directly related to reintroductions and nest site
protection. But, the bald eagle's future hinged on the banning of DDT and
other organochlorine pesticides. Eagles, as well ospreys, peregrine falcons
and a multitude of songbirds, were rendered reproductively incapable by DDT
and the like, because the birds were bio-accumulating the contaminants the
pesticides contained through prey consumption. DDT - banned nationally in
1972 - rendered the shells of bird's eggs so brittle, they broke when sat
Rachel Carson wrote in Silent Spring, "The history of life on earth has
been a history of interaction between living things and their
surroundings." She referred to the interdependencies -that often aren't
easy to identify or interpret - of organisms on each other and the
environment. When America was sprayed and dusted repeatedly and for decades
with DDT, the environment was slowly loaded with toxins that eventually
devastated the very existence of eagles and many other creatures that had
thrived for centuries. Without emergency and sustained special assistance
from wildlife conservation agencies, bald eagles would have been goners.
"Given their plight, magnificent appearance and historical
significance, bald eagles have certainly captured the hearts and
imaginations of Pennsylvanians," said Doug Gross, Game Commission
ornithologist. "Some observers have adopted nests for watching, keeping an
eye on the eagles and for any threats to the nest. We frequently receive
phone calls and emails from excited individuals who just saw their first
bald eagle in the wild. We also hear from anglers, canoeists and birders
who are taking the time to report what they believe is a new bald eagle
nest or active nesting pair. We sincerely appreciate this assistance. After
all, we cannot provide eagles with the special attention they sometimes
require if we don't know where their nest is located."
Gross noted that eagles still are not nesting on some of their more
historic nesting grounds, such as Presque Isle and the Susquehanna River's
West Branch, but they surely have experienced a resurgence that has filled
a long, noticeable void in Pennsylvania's wildlife community. If their
progress continues, bald eagles one day likely will inhabit every major
waterway and impoundment in the Commonwealth.
"Bald eagles are moving into a lot of new places, particularly along
the North Branch of the Susquehanna River," explained Gross. "I believe
we're missing some established nests there and at remote municipal
reservoirs, along steep mountainsides and river banks and on islands
elsewhere in the state. In fact, I suspect we're missing one on a
Susquehanna River island near Harrisburg."
The state's largest concentrations of bald eagles are found in three
geographic areas: the expansive wetlands of Crawford, Mercer and Erie
counties; along the lower Susquehanna River and its tributaries in Chester,
Lancaster and York counties; and the Poconos and Upper Delaware River
region. For years, Crawford County - particularly the Pymatuning region -
had represented the state's last stand for and largest concentration of
bald eagles. This year, Crawford has at least 14 active nests (14 in 2005);
lower Susquehanna River, 20 (16). In the Poconos, there are 21 nests (15).
To learn more about bald eagles and other threatened and endangered
species, visit the Game Commission's website (http://www.pgc.state.pa.us),
click on "Wildlife" in the left column, then select "Endangered and
Threatened Species," and choose "Bald Eagle" in the list of "Threatened
Created in 1895 as an independent state agency, the Game Commission is
responsible for conserving and managing all wild birds and mammals in the
Commonwealth, establishing hunting seasons and bag limits, enforcing
hunting and trapping laws, and managing habitat on the 1.4 million acres of
State Game Lands it has purchased over the years with hunting and furtaking
license dollars to safeguard wildlife habitat. The agency also conducts
numerous wildlife conservation programs for schools, civic organizations
and sportsmen's clubs.
The Game Commission does not receive any general state taxpayer dollars
for its annual operating budget. The agency is funded by license sales
revenues; the state's share of the federal Pittman-Robertson program, which
is an excise tax collected through the sale of sporting arms and
ammunition; and monies from the sale of oil, gas, coal, timber and minerals
derived from State Game Lands.
NOTE: A photo to accompany the following article is available from the
Game Commission's website (http://www.pgc.state.pa.us) by clicking on
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission