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Helping to keep our bald eagle families happy, healthy

Six-week old eaglets were calmly held on the ground while their parents circled above – one keeping close watch of the inner perimeter and one on the outer. The bald eagle parents had no idea that their two male babies were getting their first health check-ups and being fitted with electronic bands for easier tracking. They just knew their nest was being disturbed – again.

Back in November 2020, crews working on the Roseland-Pleasant Valley Project removed the nest from a tower on a right-of-way in Hunterdon County so that the old lattice tower could be removed and replaced with a new monopole structure. Because monopoles do not have surfaces conducive to nesting, the upgrade included a 6-foot by 6-foot platform to safely contain the nest at an even higher altitude than before, which eagles prefer.

The new tower was installed in December, complete with the platform and a Nest Cam that showed an empty nest for a month. As it got later into the breeding season, which starts in early January, the project team began to question whether the eagles would return to use the platform.

“We hoped the eagles would return,” said Claudia Rocca, PSE&G environmental & permitting project manager. “And then, in early February, they did. We saw them adding to the nest and building it out. We believe this is the first time that eagles have successfully used a nest platform in New Jersey.”

Eagles, like other raptors, prefer to nest high above the ground and utility infrastructure is often an appealing option. As a result, PSE&G must often make special adaptions to accommodate these and other birds of prey. Rocca said this marks the sixth season PSE&G has helped with eagle banding at this nest.

Photo credit: Biologist Daniel Brill, EcolSciences

The eaglets banded on May 14 in Hunterdon County were the only ones fitted with tracking devices in the state this year due to COVID protocols and the need to minimize groups of people working closely together, according to Kathy Clark, a New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Biologist. She said blood samples taken from the birds provide valuable data about the environment that can have wider applications, such as which toxins may be entering their system.

According to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, a PSE&G partner, last year there were 248 pairs of bald eagles in the state, of which 220 had active nests that produced 307 young. Back in the 1970s and 80s, the state was down to one pair of eagles. Breeding bald eagles remain on New Jersey’s endangered birds list while non-breeding bald eagles remain on the threatened list.

While the babies were being tended to, PSE&G crews worked to fix the Nest Cam that was damaged shortly before the parents returned home. The camera was fixed and, later in the day, showed a happy family reunion.

Check out the live cam below.

Lauren Ugorji, Lead Writer - PSE&G

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