James River Bald Eagle Population Sets Record

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on August 24, 2013

By Dr Bryan Watts, Director, The Center for Conservation Biology

“The bald eagle population along the historic James River has exceeded 200 pairs for the first time in written history. The 2013 aerial survey conducted by The Center for Conservation Biology recorded 205 pairs that produced 267 young. Areas supporting the highest densities include Charles City County (46 pairs), Prince George County (31 pairs), James City County (29 pairs) and Surry County (28 pairs).

The James River population represents the best example of bald eagle recovery in the nation. By the early 1960s the once thriving population had been reduced to below 15 pairs due to environmental contaminants and by the mid-1970s no pairs remained along the river. Following the decline of banned compounds like DDT, recovery began with a single pair in 1980. Recovery was slow in the early years and as recent as 2000 the river supported only 57 pairs that produced 85 young.

Since 2000, breeding eagles along the James River have more than tripled resulting in one of the densest populations in eastern North America. The dramatic recovery reflects the resiliency of both the bald eagle and the James River. This small geographic area now supports more breeding pairs than all surrounding states with the exception of Maryland.”

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