State’s bald eagle and falcon populations soar

Mercer County is now home to two pairs of bald eagles and their nests. The discovery comes nearly three decades after the species nearly vanished from New Jersey.

“Bald eagles in particular were wiped out to where we only had one nest in all of New Jersey as recently as the 1980s, and it wasn’t even a successful nest. And now we have over 200 pairs of bald eagles,” said David Wheeler, executive director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Wheeler said pesticides and people led to the near extinction of bald eagles.

“It’s an incredible recovery and it’s really a testament to a number of different factors. First, of course, was getting rid of DDT as a widely used agriculture pesticide. That was first and foremost, but also it was really a testament to smarter laws about cleaning up our waters, to the work of scientists and volunteers, especially here in New Jersey, where these scientists and volunteers helped bald eagles come back from that low point in the early 1980s and little by little we’ve seen this recovery,” he said.

Friday, bird watchers came equipped with binoculars and cameras to catch a glimpse of one the nests located at Mercer County Park.

“To see the nature and the national symbol of the United States all right here in Mercer Park is pretty neat,” said Flemington resident Graham MacRitchie.

Nearly 70 people were part of a new educational walking tour run by the County Parks Commission.

“We’re launching today a series of public programs to highlight for the public the wonderful news of a pair of nesting bald eagles here at Mercer County Park. For understandable reasons we are very protective of the eagles’ nest. We want to make sure that they thrive and they continue to feel safe at their home at Mercer County Park. So all viewing by the public will be from a distance greater than 1,000 feet from the nest,” said Anthony Cucchi, superintendent of Parks for the Mercer County Park Commission.

In addition to the bald eagles, the fastest animal on earth has also made a return to Jersey.

“Peregrine falcons, right here in New Jersey nesting throughout the state. Again, while the number is not as big — we have around 30 plus pairs — their recovery is just as significant. We didn’t have any falcons east of the Mississippi River back in the 70s, and now they’ve come back to be widespread. What’s great with falcons is that they nest in downtown city areas,” Wheeler said.

If you’re interested in seeing the bald eagles, you can join a walking tour at the park every Friday.