Bald eagle family grows with at least one hatchling
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer
Princeton Packet, 04/30/2004
Public continues to respect privacy of distinguished new
The Princeton area's newest homesteaders - a nesting pair of American
bald eagles - now have a third mouth to feed, and possibly a fourth,
according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental
The eagles' young offspring, one or possibly two "eaglets," hatched on
or about April 9, DEP spokeswoman Karen Hershey said Thursday. Now more
than ever, she continued, it is essential the public not disturb the
area where the nest is located, which has not been disclosed.
Tom Southerland, a world-class birder and veteran nature tour guide
living in Princeton, said the birth is significant for the region and
New Jersey, which at one point at the height of DDT use decades ago saw
its bald-eagle population near zero.
"It is our national emblem," Mr. Southerland said. "It shows if people
are keen about saving species, we can do a lot. There are so many
downers. Two of the uppers are the return of the osprey and the bald
eagles, that's a very hopeful sign."
The ongoing saga of local nesting eagles continues to capture public
interest and, according to some, to raise needed awareness of the
"Lots of people are just thrilled to be driving along Route 1 and see a
bald eagle fly across," said Brian Vernachio, director of New Jersey
Audubon Society's nature center at the Plainsboro Preserve. "It gets
people who would otherwise not realize what is going on around them to
look a little deeper."
Mr. Vernachio said the eagle is "a noticeable icon" that causes people
to take notice when sighted. This, in turn, can result in heightened
consciousness of the surrounding natural environment, he added.
For the past couple of years now, bald-eagle
sightings in the vicinity of Lake Carnegie and the Kingston lock
stirred excitement among many, and prompted speculation - and hope -
that eagles had nested.
In February, the DEP confirmed that an eagle's nest had indeed been
found in the Princeton area, but was careful not to disclose specifics
about the location of the nest in order to protect the site from human
Local eagle enthusiasts have been awaiting word from wildlife
specialists on whether the nesting pair had parented offspring.
According to Mr. Vernachio, several people are rumored to actually have
sighted a chick in the nest.
Now that the birds have hatched, he continued, it is as critical a time
for the birds as the pre-hatch incubation period.
The earlier danger was that the birds might be spooked and abandon the
nest. With a newborn or newborns, a concern now is that human
interference could cause the adults to abandon the chick or chicks,
which Mr. Vernachio noted need constant feeding by parents.
The DEP's Endangered and Nongame Species Program has posted bright red
"Do Not Enter, Endangered Species" signs in the area of the eagles'
nest. The undisclosed area is being regularly patrolled and law
enforcement officials will take action against trespassers.
Typically the birds need a minimum distance of 400 meters, or about
one-quarter mile, from human activity. About a half dozen residents in
the area have agreed to keep watch over the birds and report any
Ridgeview Road resident Lincoln Hollister, a geology professor at
Princeton University and a vocal advocate for the birds, said the eagle is a powerful symbol and reminder
of the need to conserve its habitat and our environment.
"This really does have a power to it - a hook, so to speak," Mr.
Hollister said. "It gets people's attention on the environment. Maybe
it's an indication we've got something worth preserving."
Rose Bonini, a friend of Mr. Hollister's who recently sighted one of
the eagles while driving on Canal Pointe Boulevard near MarketFair in
West Windsor Township, drove home this fact, the university geologist
Ms. Bonini, a resident of Robert Road, immediately called her friend
and left an ecstatic message on his voicemail.
Describing the sighting, she said Thursday, "Here was this huge bird. I
thought, gee that's unusual. When sun hit him, I saw his white head. I
was so thrilled, I couldn't believe it."
According to a December Division of Fish & Wildlife report on the
state's bald eagle management project, there were 40 eagle nests in New
Jersey in 2003. Only three of these were located north of Princeton -
at the Delaware Water Gap, Merrill Creek Reservoir and Round Valley
Eagles in New Jersey have made a comeback since reaching a nadir in
1970 when there was only one nesting pair identified. With the ban on
DDT in 1972 and subsequent state restoration efforts, the population
increased to 23 active eagle pairs in 2000 and 40 last year.
Nevertheless, mortality rates among young eagles is 80 percent,
according to the report.