|Celebrating 100 Years of Conservation 1913 — 2013|
Bedford Audubon Society Survey Shows Continuing Increase in Numbers of Wintering Bald Eagles in Westchester County
Over the last three years, Bedford Audubon Society has conducted surveys of roosting Bald Eagles at the Hudson River and the New Croton Reservoir. Our studies confirm a steady increase in the number of Bald Eagles wintering in this area. According to our latest report covering the period January through March 2009, in February 2009, an average of 74 Bald Eagles was recorded at the monitoring sites, compared with 51 Bald Eagles in January 2008—a 45% increase from last year.
Over three months, twenty Bedford Audubon Society volunteers spent 240 volunteer hours monitoring wintering Bald Eagles at three roosting sites in Northern Westchester and Rockland Counties. This program began when, in 2007, Bedford Audubon became convinced that the magnitude of the Bald Eagle recovery in this area was being underestimated. Bedford Audubon members and volunteers were trained in Bald Eagle identification, and they began a systematic, scientific monitoring of the wintering Bald Eagle populations.
The Bald Eagle, our national symbol, is an environmental success story. In 1965, there was only one breeding pair of Bald Eagles in all of New York State. In 2008, the number had increased to 145 pairs. It was removed from the Endangered Species list in 1995 and delisted from federal threatened status in 2007. This remarkable development is proof that sound environmental policies—in this case the banning of the pesticide DDT and protection under the Endangered Species Act—have had positive outcomes for our environment and the health of these majestic raptors.
Our survey shows that peak Bald Eagle populations for 2009 occurred in early February when a total of 139 Bald Eagles were confirmed to be roosting in the study area, compared with a peak population of 84 Bald Eagles in late January 2008—an impressive 65% increase. These figures lead us to believe that the Lower Hudson Valley is one of the largest wintering areas for Bald Eagles in the eastern lower 48 states outside of the Chesapeake Bay region.
Though the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act offer some protection, the Bald Eagle's status is far from secure. As this report confirms, the importance of our area as Bald Eagle wintering grounds cannot be overstated. We therefore urge local municipalities, Westchester County, Rockland County, New York City and the State of New York to act now to protect additional habitat surrounding these winter roosting sites through public education, sound management of public access, and permanent protection of additional open space.
Bedford Audubon would like to thank Audubon New York for providing a grant for this project. We are also grateful to our partners Saw Mill River Audubon Society, Teatown Lake Reservation, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and New York City Department of Environmental Protection, all of whom are working in the Lower Hudson Valley area to restore and protect wintering Bald Eagle populations.
© 2002-2011 Bedford Audubon Society