High atop a PSE&G transmission tower in Somerset County, two bald eaglets are preparing to spread their wings and leave their nest for the first time. When they do, they will sport colored identification bands on their legs thanks to the state’s environmental experts and a number of helping hands from my colleagues at PSE&G.
Earlier this year, PSE&G identified a new eagle’s nest on a tower along one of our transmission rights of way that criss-cross the state. Employees from the utility’s Delivery Projects and Construction (DP&C) group and the state’s Endangered and Non-game Species Program (ENSP) kept a close eye on the nest, confirming that eaglets had hatched.
Now it’s nothing new for birds of various feathers to favor nesting in high places such as utility towers or poles. In fact, the company routinely partners with environmental organizations to encourage the resurgence of endangered species through habitat creation and restoration efforts. Working with the Hackensack Riverkeeper, for example, our employees built a number of nesting platforms at one of PSEG’s power plants along the river to support the increasing osprey population – an indication that the local habitat is improving. That’s welcome news for the ospreys and everyone who is dedicated to protecting our environment. But let’s get back to the eaglets.
When the eaglets were about 6 weeks old, the ENSP biologists asked for our help with the banding effort. Banding typically occurs between 5-7 weeks old as there is minimal risk of adults abandoning the nest, the eaglets are still docile and less mobile, they have not yet developed use of their talons and their legs have reached full size for a proper band fit. We were only too glad to help.
With handling instructions from ENSP experts, four of our highly skilled towermen climbed the tower and successfully placed the eaglets — one at a time — into duffle bags, where they were gently lowered via ropes and pulleys to three other towermen on the ground. ENSP staff and a veterinarian checked out the eaglets, took body and weight measurements, collected a blood sample and banded them. The male and female eaglets each weighed about 9 pounds.
Two bands were placed on either leg — a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service federal identification band and a green New Jersey State band, indicating that the birds were born in the Garden State. These eaglets should be ready to take their first flights right about now, just in time for July 4, but will remain close to the nest until the end of summer or early fall. These eaglets do not yet have their tell-tale white head or tail feathers yet; they won’t develop these until they are about 4-5 years old.
After a brief photo opportunity, the eaglets were carefully sent back up the tower and placed back into the nest. As a token of our appreciation, we left a fish in the nest for their next meal.
We quickly left the area so that the eaglets and their parents could go back to their normal activities. This was a very special and unique opportunity provided to us by ENSP wildlife biologists. It is very important to never disturb nesting eagles or their young. People need to keep their distance from active nests and avoid making loud noises.
Although no longer listed as endangered federally, they are still listed as “endangered” during the breeding season and “threatened” during other times of the year in New Jersey. In addition, eagles are still a state and federally protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Through the management efforts of ENSP and many other groups, bald eagle numbers have soared in New Jersey in recent years. In 1982, there was one bald eagle nest in New Jersey. Today there are nearly 150 nesting pairs.
As a company that prides itself on its environmental stewardship, PSEG and its employees are pleased to play a part in this wonderful comeback.