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Chickens were used to incubate bald eagle eggs in 1982. This innovative technique was used to save the last remaining bald eagle nest in New Jersey.

In cooperation with:

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With support from:

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New Jersey EagleTrax

The goal of this project is to learn about the life cycle of non-breeding, sub-adult bald eagles and use the data collected to help protect communal roost sites.



Bald eagles have made a remarkable recovery in New Jersey over the last forty years. Up from only one nesting pair in 1982 to over 150 today. They nest in all regions of the state and do not make long distance migrations. To help learn more about this little known period of their life cycle, in the years before they become an adult, we have started tracking juvenile eagles by attaching a solar charged, battery powered satellite GPS transmitter to them. The data collected by these amazing technological devices includes their exact location, altitude, flight speed, date and time of day. With this, we can then see where they go to forage and roost at night. We can also see where they disperse to, after fledging, and where they return to (near their natal areas).

This project began in the summer of 2014 when two "hatch year" eagles (from different nests) were fitted with a GPS transmitter. Biologists chose one eagle from Atlantic County, a male named "Nacote" and a female, named "Millville" from Cumberland County to be entered into this new telemetry study. To continue the study, in May 2015 a juvenile male, named "Oran" from a nest in Cumberland County was fitted with another GPS transmitter.

On the top of the map you will see the names of the birds that are or have been tracked. The default bird is "Nacote." On the left hand side you will see the years that the bird has been tracked. Once you click on a year then you can select a month of the year to view his animated journey. To change the map layer, click on the box in the upper right. Zoom in or out using the buttons or pinch and zoom using your fingers or the wheel on your mouse.

Special thanks to the American Eagle Foundation for supporting this project!


Our Birds:

Image of Harmony 2 originated from a nest at the Merrill Creek Reservoir in Warren County.Zoom+ Harmony 2 originated from a nest at the Merrill Creek Reservoir in Warren County.
Merrill Creek Reservior

In June of 2011 two chicks (male & female) from the Merrill Creek Reservoir eagle nest in Warren County were fitted with solar-powered transmitters that are monitored via satellites. In September 2011, the male flew as far west as Harrisburg, PA, and in January 2012 spent a few days in the upper Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. After that he spent the majority of his time in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. In early January, 2013, biologists became concerned when the signal from the transmitter was not moving. A team of biologists from the ENSP’s Clinton office went out to search the area but were not able to locate the bird. Another attempt was made on January 18th and the bird was found dead on the shoulder of the highway.

Unfortunately the female chick died in October, 2011 due to starvation. She tested positive for West Nile Virus which could have contributed to her death. The transmitter was recovered from the female and in May of this year the transmitter was placed on the largest of three chicks, Harmony, in the Merrill Creek nest.

Harmony 2

Image of Harmony 2

“Harmony 2” (banded D/64) was tagged at Merrill Creek Reservoir, Warren County. She fledged in 2012 and spent her first winter on lower Chesapeake Bay before traveling to Maine. She has spent the last three years in a 100-mile swath of western Connecticut and Massachusetts, making us suspect she will end up nesting there.

  • Hatch date: ~April 9
  • Fledge date: ~July 19
  • Measurements at 7 weeks of age:
  • Culmen: 43.45 mm
  • Bill depth: 28.8 mm
  • Tarsus: 16.40 mm
  • Hallux claw: 38.4 mm
  • Weight: 3.80kg

Haliae

Image of Haliae was produced from the nest at Merrill Creek the year after Harmony 2. Zoom+ Haliae was produced from the nest at Merrill Creek the year after Harmony 2.

In 2013, we tagged “Haliae” (D/88) as a Merrill Creek nestling. She fledged and spent the winter of 2013-14 ranging around northern Chesapeake Bay in MD. In April, 2014, she headed through PA and NY and into Canada. In June she was back in NJ’s Warren County, though she continued to wander and spent that summer in northern Maine and Canada. In fall, 2014, she headed to eastern PA, and spent most of 2015 and 2016 on Maryland’s eastern shore.

Image of Haliae
  • Hatch date: ~April 4
  • Fledge date: ~June 19
  • Measurements at 8 weeks of age:
  • Culmen: 48.65 mm
  • Bill depth: 33.0 mm
  • Tarsus: 16.50 mm
  • Hallux claw: 36.9 mm
  • Weight: 3.60 kg

Other New Jersey Locations

Millville

The nest where Millville hatched is on the upper Maurice River, in a tall pine with a beautiful river view. Mick Valent made the climb up as the crew watched from the river, and that's where we confirmed there were three eaglets in the nest. With Mick's approach to the nest, two of the eaglets moved away from his side of the 8-foot wide nest and out of his reach. One eaglet, probably the youngest of the three, remained close enough and became one of our study eagles. She was lowered to the ground where she was measured and fitted with the transmitter. She was about 8.3 weeks of age, perhaps a week behind her siblings. The banding date was May 19, and she remained close to the nest until late July, venturing out to Delaware Bay marshes and back in early August. As of mid-September she remains in southern NJ.

Sadly, this bird died only a few months after fledging. She was found dead on November 24, 2014 near the Chesapeake Bay. Fortunately, her GPS transmitter was recovered and was re-deployed on "Oran" in 2015.


Nacote

Image of Nacote in nest

The nest on Nacote Creek is difficult to monitor, so the eagle banding crew was walking into the site without knowing the chick's age with certainty. Mick Valent climbed the 70' tall pine tree, and just as he was going over the rim of the nest, the eagle nestling decided to jump rather than wait to see what happened. He was about 8.5 weeks of age, and his wings were adequate to float him to a soft landing on the salt marsh, where he was easily picked up by Dr. Erica Miller. He was fine, and we proceeded to take the standard measurements before attaching the transmitter. "Nacote" was back in the nest in short order. That was on May 6, and according to the transmitter data, he first moved away from the nest tree on May 22, but he remained within about 1/4 mile for more than one week as he learned flying and landing skills. He made a bold northern movement in late July, and as of mid-September was in Canada.

Image of Nacote graphic

“Nacote” was banded as a nestling in the summer of 2014 and fledged in July. He surprised everyone when he made a big northern movement in August, 2014, heading due north and out of transmission range. He returned to northern New York where his transmitter’s data downloaded to our computers, showing he’d spent most of the fall in a remote area of Quebec. He returned to southern NJ in November, 2014, and spent the rest of 2015 and 2016 in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties. He has been photographed several times at Forsythe NWR in Atlantic County.

  • Hatch date: ~March 10
  • Fledge date: ~July
  • Measurements at 8.5 weeks of age:
  • Culmen: 43.45 mm
  • Bill depth: 28.8 mm
  • Tarsus: 14.90 mm
  • Hallux claw: 33.8 mm
  • Weight: 3.70 kg

Oran

Image of Oran originated from a nest on the Delaware Bay in 2015.Zoom+ Oran originated from a nest on the Delaware Bay in 2015. Kathy Clark/ENSP

“Oran” is an eagle banded and tagged as a nestling on Delaware Bay in 2015. After fledging he spent late summer and fall moving across Cumberland and Cape May counties. On November 17, 2015, he flew across Delaware Bay and spent the winter in the farmland and woodlands of Maryland’s eastern shore. He returned to NJ in spring, 2016, and spent most of his time ranging around Cumberland County. In mid-July he made a two-day flight to Maine, and went out of range along the Quebec/Maine border. During this time his transmitter started to malfunction. It was not recording the typical number of points during the day and we weren't sure what was causing the problem.

Image of Oran

Luckily Oran's transmitter kept working and he returned to cellular range in late September as he flew to the Maine coast. By October 3 he was already back in Cape May County. Oran had been around the lower Maurice River on October 24 when his tag stopped transmitting; 11 days later the tag “pinged” at a farm field in Maryland. A Maryland state biologist investigated this for us, and found the transmitter in a harvested corn field, with no sign of any eagle. The transmitter was intact but the harness was in pieces, looking like it had gone through the harvester. We do not know what happened, but it’s possible the backpack harness came loose and Oran pulled it off. We won’t know for sure unless we get a resighting of Oran that includes identification of his green aux. band. We surely hope he is alive and well!

  • Hatch date: ~March 19
  • Fledge date: ~June 4
  • Measurements at 8.5 weeks of age:
  • Culmen: 44.5 mm
  • Bill depth: 29.3 mm
  • Tarsus: 15.0 mm
  • Hallux claw: 35.0 mm
  • Weight: 3.60 kg

Learn more about Bald eagles in New Jersey:

Find Related Info: Bald Eagles