Oldest Banded Bald Eagle Found in Henrietta - A New DEC Press Release

NYSDEC Press Release
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Oldest Banded Bald Eagle Found in Henrietta

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) staff responded to a report of a deceased eagle alongside a road in Henrietta, Monroe County, on Tuesday, June 2. According to the bald eagle's leg band number, it was 38 years old. The USGS Banding Lab Longevity Records indicate that the eagle is the oldest banded bald eagle encountered in the nation to date--by five years.

"This record eagle is a testament to the diligent conservation and restoration work done under New York's Bald Eagle Restoration Program," said Executive Deputy Commissioner, Marc Gerstman. "It's truly noteworthy that this eagle lived a long life and thrived in New York, returning to his New York nest site to continue breeding. DEC's work to conserve habitat and ensure clean air and clean water for bald eagles and many of the other fish and wildlife is ongoing, including participation in many research programs to ensure these species continue to thrive in New York State."

According to banding records, this bird was a nestling originally brought from Lake Puposky in northern Minnesota as part of New York's Bald Eagle Restoration Program, one of only five young eagles raised and released at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in the second year of the program. The eagle was banded at few months of age in Seneca Falls, Seneca County, in August of 1977 and raised and released at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. Once it reached breeding age in 1981, it began nesting at Hemlock Lake, now part of Hemlock-Canadice State Forest.

The Hemlock Lake nest territory continued on, and this eagle, banded as 03142, became a steady and successful father to many eaglets fledged from that site for many more years.

Peter Nye, retired DEC Wildlife Biologist, who spearheaded New York's Bald Eagle Restoration Program reflected on the early days of the program stated, "When we banded 03142 on August 5, 1977 and had no idea how very special and significant this young bald eagle would become to our nascent bald eagle restoration program. Based on his recent recovery near this site, we have to assume he has been the resident male, breeding here for the past 34 years. That's quite a stretch, and likely a record in itself. His longevity, 38 years, although ingloriously cut short by a motor vehicle, is also a National record for known life-span of a wild bald eagle. All I can say is, hats off too you 03142; job well done!"

Following a national ban on the chemical pesticide, DDT in 1972 and prohibitions against taking or killing bald eagles in the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, New York State initiated a Bald Eagle Restoration Project in 1976 to reestablish a breeding population.

The state hosted one remaining unproductive bald eagle nest on Hemlock Lake in Livingston County. As an attempt to reestablish a small breeding population in New York State, DEC released 23 fledgling bald eagles at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in 1976 - 1980. In 1980, the resident male of the state's last native pair of eagles at Hemlock Lake was tragically found shot to death near the nest.

Over a 13-year period, 198 nestling bald eagles were collected from nests in other states, raised to independence with minimal human contact (a technique known as hacking), and released in New York. The hacked eagles flourished and many of them returned to New York to nest and breed. The hacking program concluded in 1988 because of its overwhelming success, surpassing its original goal of 10 nesting pairs of bald eagles in New York. Today, New York supports 350 pairs of nesting bald eagles.

The record eagle, found with a freshly killed rabbit nearby and apparently had been hit by a vehicle. Vehicle collisions are one of the leading causes of eagle deaths in New York State, accounting for more than 30 percent of known recorded mortality.

For more information on DEC's Bald Eagle Program and additional facts on the bald eagle species, visit DEC's website.