(by Chris Martin)
Bald Eagles continue to find new spots to set up breeding territories in the state. In 2022, NH Audubon staff and volunteers confirmed 92 territorial pairs, up nearly 14% compared to 2021. We documented 72 incubating pairs, up more than 7% from last year. We counted 51 successful nests, surprisingly down 4% compared with 2021. And we tallied 84 young fledged, up almost 4% over 81 fledglings in both 2019 and 2021. This year’s numbers set new state record-highs, and if the present growth rate continues for the rest of this decade, we could have 200 territorial pairs of eagles in the state by 2030!
Our eagle-watching volunteers remain essential to NH Audubon’s eagle monitoring strategy! We track progress at known nests from February when the earliest pairs lay eggs through August when the last chicks fledge. In addition, we also found 7 NEW breeding territories (in Auburn, Deering, Durham, Hinsdale, Hooksett, Lyme, and Wilton) in 2022. Volunteer photographers contribute much to our monitoring efforts each year, and they also deserve credit for gathering data and sharing many wonderful images for our use in educational outreach!
Bald Eagles resumed breeding in the Granite State about 35 years ago, but nearly half of the fledglings have come in just the most recent 5 years! Our major rivers and large lakes are now well-supplied with eagles. For example, our state’s 190-mile shared border with Vermont now has 27 territorial pairs, if you include pairs that nest on either side of the Connecticut River. That’s roughly one pair every 7 miles over our western border’s entire length. In the state’s busy Lake Region – an area designated for focus in our 2022 state monitoring contract with NH Fish and Game – we found 20 territorial pairs that produced 15 fledglings. Good numbers of pairs indeed, but not particularly good nesting success.
Over the past year we also documented 11 Bald Eagles found dead, and another 7 individuals that died or were euthanized during treatment. Several of these birds were struck by vehicles, and this is a big risk for eagles and other scavengers. Working with wildlife rehabilitator Maria Colby from Wings of the Dawn and Dr. Michael Dutton and his skilled veterinary staff in Hopkinton and Weare, a rehabbed 17-yr old female eagle was released at Lake Horace in Weare in August. Another adult, an 11-yr old male, was still awaiting release as of this Fall.
NH Fish and Game removed the Bald Eagle from our state’s Endangered and Threatened Wildlife List in March 2017 due to robust population recovery recorded since the 1980s by NH Audubon staff and volunteers. Since delisting in 2017, our eagle population has continued to grow, doubling in size about every 5-7 years since the late 1990s. Presently, it tests our ability to keep tabs on an increasing number of pairs and nests that are scattered all across the state. It’s worth reflecting on the fact that just 25 years ago we had only ONE known nesting pair of Bald Eagles in the entire Granite State!
Our work with eagles is funded in part by a federal State Wildlife Grant to NH Fish and Game. Recently, we also received grants from the Knopf Family Foundation and the Sally Sanderson Cutler Wildlife Conservation Fund, as well as several generous gifts from NH Audubon members and others. Thanks to all and looking forward to tracking eagles in 2023!