Bald eagles have expanded their range in the Channel Islands off the coast of California, where a nesting pair has been found on San Clemente Island for the first time in more than 50 years, an official said Thursday.
The discovery means bald eagles have re-established territories on five of the eight islands in the chain and experts expect their return to all eight islands within a few years.
Bald eagles disappeared from the islands in the 1960s primarily due to the use of the insecticide DDT, which caused thinning of eggshells that easily broke.
Sixteen breeding pairs were added to the population of the more than 60 birds living on the islands.
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There didn’t appear to be chicks in the San Clemente nest, but it’s encouraging to know that eagles now occupy most of the islands, said Jane Hendron, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Officials said they have released 61 chicks onto the northern Channel Islands as part of a bald eagle reestablishment effort that began in 2002.
After four years of breading the eagles in captivity, the first chick hatched naturally on Santa Cruz Island for the first time in more than 50 years.
Hendron said they are no longer breeding the eagles in captivity now that they have had successful natural hatchings.
“We’re just going to let nature take its course,” she said.