Amateur bird watcher Joshua Maloney has discovered the first Bald Eagle chick to hatch on Cape Cod in 115 years.
Bald Eagles were once found all over the country, although their historical numbers in Massachusetts aren’t very well known.
When they became the national bird in 1782, it was estimated there were at least 100,000 eagles nesting nationwide.
Bald Eagle numbers declined in Massachusetts due to deforestation and hunting in the mid-1800s.
The hunting problem had such a significant impact that in 1940 Congress was moved to pass the Bald Eagle Protection Act which now also extends to Golden Eagles. The act outlawed killing or harassing wild eagles as well as trading their parts.
In the 1940s, another deadly threat appeared: The pesticide DDT.
Farmers sprayed DDT on crops to kill insects and other pests.
“It (DDT) interfered with eagles’ ability to metabolize calcium, so their eggshells were gradually thinning over the years,” says Wayne Petersen, Mass Audubon’s Director of the Massachusetts Important Bird Areas program. “Some of these birds were eventually laying eggs with practically no shells.”
By the mid-1960s, Bald Eagle numbers had dropped below 500 nationwide.
Years after the banning of DDT and extreme conservation methods, there are now more than 80 confirmed nests in Massachusetts, including 10 new ones in 2020 alone.
Bald Eagle populations are also rising in other parts of the country.
This chick is the first confirmed hatchling; hopefully the first of many!