Background

Photo showing adult Bald Eagle and chick in nest on Santa Cruz Island.

Adult Bald Eagle with chick in nest at Pelican Harbor on Santa Cruz Island.

Historically, Bald Eagles nested and lived among all of the Channel Islands. However, by the early 1960s, Bald Eagles disappeared from the Channel Islands due to human impacts, including the introduction of DDT. The overall goal of this restoration effort is to create a self-sustaining population of Bald Eagles on the Channel Islands.

Restoration efforts on Catalina Island have been conducted since 1980, and efforts on the northern Channel Islands began in 2002. The restoration of the Bald Eagle back to the Channel Islands has been a major focus of the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP) over the past decade.

Watch a film about Bald Eagle restoration on the Channel Islands!

Bald Eagle Restoration Project

Northern Channel Islands Feasibility Study

From 2002 to 2006, MSRP partnered with the Institute for Wildlife Studies to release 61 Bald Eagle juveniles on Santa Cruz Island. Since their release on Santa Cruz Island, the eagles have spread out among the Channel Islands and biologists have documented nesting on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Anacapa, and Catalina Islands.

Monitoring

Biologists monitor Bald Eagles throughout the Channel Islands. Annual monitoring involves searching for new nesting pairs, collecting data on breeding attempts, tracking eagles, and conducting contaminant analysis. Prior to a chick fledging from a nest, biologists place wing markers, a leg band, and GPS or VHF radio transmitter onto the eaglets. They also take blood samples for contaminant and stable isotope analysis. This information helps biologists to monitor the movements and health of the Bald Eagle chicks.

Photo showing first Bald Eagle on Anacapa Island since 1960.

First known Bald Eagle to hatch on Anacapa Island since 1960. Photo was taken in 2011.

Bald Eagle Restoration Project Updates

Nest Monitoring

The 2013 nesting season proved to be a productive one again this year. The first Bald Eagle chick to hatch naturally on Santa Cruz Island in 2006 in over 50 years, known as A-49, nested on her own for the second year in a row. This year she was actually successful in hatching a chick that fledged from the nest! This milestone marks the second generation of Bald Eagles to naturally hatch and fledge from a wild nest. The West End nest on Santa Catalina Island also produced triplets for the third year in a row that all fledged from the nest.

In 2013, there were a total of 15 breeding pairs on the Channel Islands: 2 on Santa Rosa, 5 on Santa Cruz, 1 on Anacapa, and 7 on Santa Catalina. Although some of these nests failed, the eagles still produced 18 chicks, of which 16 fledged from the nests in June and July. Approximately 60 Bald Eagles currently reside on the Channel Islands.

Bald Eagle Movements

Biologists use GPS and VHF radio transmitters and visual surveys to follow the movements of Bald Eagles around the Channel Islands and the mainland. In 2012, 53 Bald Eagles were observed by biologists on the islands and 15 were followed using GPS tracking. The 15 Bald Eagles that were tracked spent most of their time on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands.
Bald Eagles released on Santa Cruz Island have largely been documented travelling among the northern Channel Islands. Most of the Bald Eagles stay around the islands but some have been tracked as far as northern California, Washington, Wyoming, and Nevada. Based on the GPS data, we have learned that the one of the primary causes of mortality for the young eagles is crossing over to the mainland.

Contamination Levels

Blood samples are collected from all birds released on Santa Cruz Island around 11-12 weeks of age for baseline levels of contaminants in their blood. Biologists successfully recaptured seven Bald Eagles on the northern Channel Islands since 2002 to observe any increases in contaminant levels. Recaptured individuals showed a significant increase in DDT levels compared to baseline levels. The question of whether or not such increases impacts their reproduction will continue to be monitored over time.

Project Reports

Press Releases