2015 NH Bald Eagle Breeding Season Results by Chris Martin

Posted on October 2, 2015
Ossipee juv 8-24-15 by Jack Dorsey

Fledged juvenile from newly-found nest on Ossipee Lake. Photo by Jack Dorsey.

New Hampshire’s state-threatened Bald Eagle population continues to exhibit a very strong recovery, as evidenced by monitoring results from the recently completed 2015 breeding season. NH Audubon coordinates monitoring and management of Bald Eagles in partnership with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Nongame Program, and with funding from a State Wildlife Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with additional grant support from TransCanada, and with assistance from individual donors and volunteers.

Round Island trio. Photo by Connie Moses.

Round Island trio. Photo by Connie Moses.

In 2015, we confirmed a record-high total of 45 TERRITORIAL PAIRS of Bald Eagles in New Hampshire (up from 41 pairs in 2014 and twice as many pairs as we found in 2010). We confirmed 30 PAIRS INCUBATING in 2015 (up from 27 in 2014 and twice as many as in 2010). There were 25 SUCCESSFUL NESTS in 2015 (up from 2014 and more than double what we found in 2010), and a total of 43 YOUNG FLEDGED (up from 41 fledglings in 2014 and more than double the number produced in 2010). All these statistics match or surpass previous post-DDT era record-high marks for Bald Eagles in the Granite State. New Hampshire’s statewide totals for 2015 do NOT include at least 11 additional border-nesting eagle pairs (8 known in Vermont along the Connecticut River, and 3 known in Maine). These additional birds all spend a good deal of time in New Hampshire, but because their nest trees are physically located in neighboring states we don’t count them in our NH breeding season totals.

Extra adult eagle makes trouble at Merrymeeting Marsh nest. Photo by Libby Corbin.

Extra adult eagle makes trouble at Merrymeeting Marsh nest. Photo by Libby Corbin.

Seeing Bald Eagles on local lakes or rivers still comes as a pleasant surprise to many NH citizens, but when you consider the various segments of the state’s 2015 eagle population it is clear why such sightings are becoming increasingly common. Add New Hampshire’s 45 territorial pairs (that’s 90 individuals) plus their 43 fledged young, and you get a total of 133 birds. Then roughly double that figure to account for the state’s many transient immature eagles in one-, two-, and three-year old cohorts. Adding all these up, it is not a stretch to arrive at a population estimate of 250-275 Bald Eagles present in the Granite State at the close of Summer 2015! A grand total of 317 young Bald Eagle chicks have fledged from NH nests since the species began nesting here once again more than 25 years ago. Nearly 50% of those fledglings have been produced during just the past 4 breeding seasons, 2012 thru 2015!

“Eagle Tree” on Melvin Island in Lake Winnipesaukee. Photo by Iain MacLeod.

“Eagle Tree” on Melvin Island in Lake Winnipesaukee. Photo by Iain MacLeod.

Highlights from the 2015 breeding season include a recently discovered nest on Ossipee Lake that fledged 2 young (see Ossipee photo), plus 2 additional new nests found at Elm Brook Park in Hopkinton and near Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee. Three NH nests scattered across the state (Ammonoosuc River in Lisbon, Round Island in Gilford (see Round Is. photo), Leach’s Island in New Castle) each produced 3 fledglings. NH’s Lakes Region now has 14 eagle pairs … 7 times the number the same area just a decade ago (see Merrymeeting and Melvin photos)! And the Merrimack River from Franklin to Nashua now hosts at least 5 pairs!

Vernon Dam male with blue NY color band. Photo by Bill Dean.

Vernon Dam male with blue NY color band. Photo by Bill Dean.

Ongoing efforts to determine the banded status of New Hampshire’s breeding Bald Eagles in 2015 yielded the following results. Of 91 known territorial birds, banded status was determined for 45 individuals (49%) and remained unknown for the other 46 (51%). Of the 45 birds where banded status was confirmed, 27 individuals (60%) were unbanded, while 17 (40%) were confirmed to be banded. We positively IDed 9 individual breeding adult eagles all ranging in age from 6-11 years old at various NH nest sites in 2015. Of those 9 birds, 33% originated from NH nests, 33% from MA, 22% from ME, and 11% from NY. In addition to local origins like Squam Lake, Umbagog Lake, and Winnipesaukee, our breeding eagles hail from places like Quabbin Reservoir and the Connecticut River in MA, the Penobscot River and Little Sebago Lake in ME, and from the Hudson River near Albany NY (see Vernon Blue photo).

Dead adult eagle found at Great East Lake in January 2015. Photo by Chris McKay.

Dead adult eagle found at Great East Lake in January 2015. Photo by Chris McKay.

Bow Lake eagles fledged two young in 2015. Photo by Cheryl Mrozienski.

Bow Lake eagles fledged two young in 2015. Photo by Cheryl Mrozienski.

New Hampshire’s shared 275-mile border with Vermont on the Connecticut River now supports 19 Bald Eagle breeding territories (11 in NH and 8 across the border in VT) located immediately along the river (not entire watershed), whereas there was only one pair known along the NH-VT portion of the river in 2000. NH and VT biologists have been able to share expertise and work closely together to better monitor and manage this shared resource thanks to support provided by TransCanada’s Community Investment Program grant. We continue to search for new nests, provide site management and landowner advice, follow-up when possible on reports of dead and injured eagles (see Great East photo), and work with many local volunteers to document nest outcomes (see Bow Lk photo).

Thanks to all for your interest and partnership, and for your continued support!

Bald Eagle data