Respect Signage to Protect Bald Eagle Nests
by Margaret O’Gorman, Executive Director
The recovery of New Jersey’s bald eagle population is a great success story for the state and for the many biologists, conservationists and volunteers involved in the effort. This recovery has been over 20 years in the making with over 100 pairs now breeding in New Jersey, a huge increase from the late eighties when one pair remained in our state.
While we celebrate the success of our eagle population, we must now begin to deal with the fact that eagle nests are increasingly located in places where more people can view them and get close to these magnificent birds and who wouldn’t want to observe these iconic species?
But close observation can be dangerous to these birds and damaging to the continued recovery of the population. Bald eagles do not react well when people or pets get too close to their nests. They can be easily disturbed by humans in close proximity and this disturbance can cause them to expend valuable energy when flushed or, at the extreme, to abandon their nests leaving eggs to fail or newly hatched chicks to die.
The USFWS Bald Eagle Management Plan says it best: “If agitated by human activities, eagles may inadequately construct or repair their nest, may expend energy defending the nest rather than tending to their young, or may abandon the nest altogether. Activities that cause prolonged absences of adults from their nests can jeopardize eggs or young. Depending on weather conditions, eggs may overheat or cool too much and fail to hatch. Unattended eggs and nestlings are subject to predation. Young nestlings are particularly vulnerable because they rely on their parents to provide warmth or shade, without which they may die as a result of hypothermia or heat stress. If food delivery schedules are interrupted, the young may not develop healthy plumage, which can affect their survival. In addition, adults startled while incubating or brooding young may damage eggs or injure their young as they abruptly leave the nest.”
The biologists at the state’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program responsible for recovering the bald eagle population post eagle nests to show a safe distance from which to observe them. They do this posting to protect the recovery of the population and the investment of time and money that made the recovery happen.
If you truly love bald eagles and support their continued recovery, please keep outside the posted distance. If you want to watch these birds, please invest in a high quality viewing scope and if you want to photograph them, buy a good zoom lens for your camera.
Protect the recovery by honoring the postings.