Written by: Michael Catania, Executive Director of Duke Farms
The Duke Farms Eagle Cam is nearing an impressive 10 million views.
Installed and operational in March of 2008, the Eagle Cam has allowed viewers to have a close-up view of the nesting behavior of the adult eagles and watch the pair raise a total of 17 chicks — including this season’s two arrivals.
Throughout the last seven years, folks tuning in to the eagle cam have witnessed some incredible sights.
These have ranged from the sad fate of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk that landed on the nest just after the chicks had hatched — only to meet its doom at the hands of one of the very protective parents — to the wide array of critters brought to the nest as food for the chicks over the years.
For most viewers, just watching 17 awkward chicks over the years learn to fly and eventually leave the nest has been a memorable experience.
Our Eagle Cam, operated in cooperation with the New Jersey Endangered and Non-game Species Program and Conserve Wildlife Foundation, has truly become a window into a “day in the life” of the Bald Eagles.
So whether you are a long-time viewer or have recently discovered our Eagle Cam, we thought that you might like a brief report on the alumni of the Duke Farms nest.
Good information, even for banded birds, is often rare or simply non-existent — for several reasons. The mortality rate for juvenile Bald Eagles, like all birds, is notoriously high.
The fact that juveniles cover some pretty good distances in their migrations and wanderings — not to mention that eagles often nest in hard-to-reach, secretive places — makes it very tough to follow young eagles after they leave the nest.
It is actually pretty amazing that we have any information about several of the Duke Farms eagles. Here’s what we do know, thanks to the ENSP’s banding program.
To begin with, we have found that the adult male from the Duke Farms nesting pair was banded as a hatchling in 2000 at the Rancocas Creek nest in Burlington County.
It is great to see that Bald Eagle chicks fledging from New Jersey nests are returning to the Garden State to have contact with other eagles and find a mate, thus expanding the genetic pool of our local eagles — an important factor in any rare species recovery program.
As for the chicks that have fledged from the Duke Farms nest, it turns out that we have good data on 3 three of the 17 chicks.
The oldest of three males (affectionately known as the “three stooges”) from the 2009 nest, was banded with green band C-96 at Duke Farms. It was sighted in 2013 as a near-adult, successfully fishing at the Conowingo Dam in Maryland.
Perhaps even more impressive, another eagle from the 2009 nest – this one the smallest of the three males, with green band C-94 — has been observed successfully nesting about 150 miles away in Connecticut.
C-94 fathered two chicks last season and its chicks for 2015 have hatched. Not too bad for the runt of the litter!
Unfortunately, the news of a 2014 Duke Farms fledgling was not as positive. A young male, banded as D-98, was found dead last July near Little Sebago Lake in Maine, after local residents witnessed the young raptor being attacked by an adult Bald Eagle nesting there.
As more news trickles in from sightings of the Duke Farms eagles, we will share that information with you as well.
While all of the news may not always be good, it is heartening to know that our Bald Eagles are indeed making their way in the world, interacting with other wild eagles and becoming a significant part of a wider recovery effort.
The Bald Eagle recovery program in New Jersey is truly one of the most impressive and heart-warming rare species success stories around.
After being down to the very last nest in New Jersey, the program has brought the Bald Eagle back from the brink of extinction so successfully that we now have almost 150 active eagle nests here in the Garden State.
And, as the alumni report above shows, the nest at Duke Farms and the eagles produced by this nest have become part of a new ecological network that is part of a larger regional success story that will ensure that New Jersey will be able to enjoy watching eagles soar for generations to come.
Stay tuned to our Eagle Cam for the rest of the 2015 season to see what adventures lie ahead for these magnificent birds of prey.
Who knows where the Class of 2015 may end up?