Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bald Eagle Recovery Spreads Across Channel Islands

Channel Islands National Park reported in July that 60 bald eagles are currently living across California's Channel Islands. In spring 2014 there were sixteen known breeding pairs and fourteen chicks successfully fledged or flew from the nest.

As bald eagles reestablish their population, they help protect island foxes by reducing the probability that golden eagles will colonize the islands. Bald eagles primarily prey on fish and seabirds, while the golden eagles prey specifically on mammals. In the late 1990s, golden eagles nearly caused the extinction of the island fox on three islands: San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz.

Milestone bald eagle birth in 2013.

A landmark this year was the return of bald eagles to San Clemente Island. It is believed this is the first time bald eagles have attempted to nest on this southern island in approximately 50 years. The U.S. Navy manages San Clemente Island and they have been successful in protecting island foxes and other island endemic species. The bald eagles are evidence of recovering habitat on the windswept island. 

The newly established pair was unsuccessful in nesting in 2014, but hopes are high that the pair will find success in the future.

According to the National Park Service the pair of bald eagles combine the successes found on the other Channel Islands. The female was hatched near Juneau, Alaska, in 2004. She was relocated as a juvenile to Santa Cruz Island as part of the efforts to reestablish bald eagles on the National Park islands.

The male eagle is a young adult, hatched in 2007. He began life in an incubator on Santa Catalina Island and was placed in a bald eagle nest on the island, where he was raised by foster eagle parents. 

With a number of active bald eagle nests on Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands, the young pair looked south for territory of their own. Biologists hope that eventually all of the Channel Islands will have resident bald eagles. The recovery of the bald eagle and the island fox is dramatically interconnected. Success for the bald eagles supports island fox recovery and stability.

See Current Island Fox Recovery, island by island.