- The Washington Times - Friday, July 2, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — Bald eagles, long on the rise in Maryland, are multiplying so successfully that the population of nesting couples rose 10 percent over the past year, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

State scientists estimate Maryland is home to 383 pairs of eagles, up from last year’s record of 339 pairs. Monitoring nesting couples is critical because it was their reproductive failure that placed them on the endangered list in 1973, said Glenn Therres, DNR’s principal eagle biologist.

There likely are about 2,000 eagles living in Maryland, most of which stick close to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, Mr. Therres said. That’s up from 200 in 1977, a low point for the state’s eagle population.

“They’ve made a tremendous recovery in the state and Chesapeake Bay area,” Mr. Therres said. “They’re adapting more and more each year to situations that 20 years ago we would not have thought eagles would be able to handle.”

Five pairs of eagles are making their homes on steel towers holding high-voltage utility lines, Mr. Therres said, and one pair has raised its young less than 200 yards from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction project.

“We would never have thought eagles would get that close to construction and heavy traffic, but there they are and they’re raising young,” Mr. Therres said.

Experts attribute the resurgence to the 1972 ban of the pesticide DDT, which caused the birds to lay eggs with brittle shells. They also attribute the population increase to the Bay’s rebounding populations of big fish, such as croaker and striped bass.

Declaring the species “endangered” in most of the United States in 1973 also increased their survival rates. Bald eagles still are classified as “threatened.”

Eagles thrive near the Bay because they nest in wooded areas long the shoreline and are able to survey easily the estuary’s rich buffet of fish, ducks, turtles and snakes.

“A combination of ample food and secure nesting sites is an ingredient for recovery,” Mr. Therres said.

Besides the state’s resident eagles, scientists are finding that Maryland has become a kind of offseason resort for the birds as their populations increase elsewhere, Mr. Therres said.

In winter, eagles migrate to the Bay from New England and Canada as rivers and lakes freeze. In summer, juvenile eagles migrate from Florida when the Bay’s fish population is at its peak.

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