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August 2017
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EAGLES
 

UPDATE: July 22, 2014
Four chicks have fledged! 

KPCC Public Radio
Orange County Register Newspaper
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LIVE cams below by Institute for Wildlife Studies. Simply click on the nest name to go to the nest's page and larger video. Works best with Firefox or Chrome. 

IWS: Birds and Ospreys
Two Harbors, Santa Catalina Island, California


 

West End, Santa Catalina Island, California


Spring 2014  
For bald eagle chicks are poised to leave their Catalina Island 
nests in the coming days, thanks to the continuing efforts of the Institute for Wildlife 
Studies (IWS) and the Catalina Island Conservancy. DDT poisoning had extirpated the bald 
eagle from California's Channel Islands until IWS and the Conservancy partnered to bring 
them back to Catalina, beginning in 1980. 
 
One of the chicks can be seen on IWS' live-streaming "eagle cam," where millions have 
watched the bald eagles tending to their young. The eaglet has been spotted perched on the 
edge of the nest and extending its wings in apparent preparation for flight. 
 
"The wildlife on Catalina is part of what makes the Island so special and unique," said Ann 
M. Muscat, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Conservancy. "To have an eagle soar over 
while you're hiking on a trail is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the many 
people who made possible the return of these majestic birds to Catalina. It's a truly 
memorable experience." 
 
The Conservancy's work to fulfill its mission of restoring and protecting the valuable natural 
resources of Catalina through a balance of conservation, education and recreation ensures 
that the bald eagle will be here today and for future generations. 
 
Last year, 10 chicks flew or "fledged" from Catalina Island's nests. Biologists aren't certain 
why there were fewer eaglets on Catalina Island this year. But they pointed out that the age 
of the Catalina Island eagles may have played a role. 
 
Peter Sharpe, Ph.D., who has been directing bald eagle restoration on Catalina for the IWS 
since 1997, said that 2014 has been a transitional year for Catalina's eagles. He explained 
that, "three of the four pairs that failed had at least one new member that was nesting for 
the first time." 
 
Bald eagles generally breed around five years of age. "It can take a new pair upwards of 
three years before they become successful parents," said Annie Little, biologist for U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service. "We fully expect the younger eagles on Catalina to breed successfully 
next year." 
 
Catalina is home to Crystal, one of the oldest females on the Channel Islands. At age 30, 
Little said, the eagle is "simply not as fertile as she once was." 
 
After two decades without an eagle sighting on Catalina Island, the Conservancy initially 
helped to fund the Bald Eagle Restoration Program in 1980. As additional funding became 
available, the IWS took over the program and manages it today with the Conservancy's 
support directed to providing a healthy ecosystem for the birds. 
 
DDT, a pesticide that was outlawed in 1972 was absorbed by the birds' major prey, fish, 
then ingested by the eagles. It caused the eagles to lay eggs with weakened shells that 
cracked under the adults' weight during incubation. Without young eagles to replace older 
individuals, the Catalina Island population died out. 
 
A new generation of adult eagles began laying eggs in Catalina nests in 1987, but the eggs 
all broke before hatching. Analyses showed that the eggs had record levels of DDT 
contamination, indicating that DDT was still in the environment. 

To assist the eagles, IWS biologists began retrieving the fragile eggs, hatching them off-site 
in incubators and returning healthy chicks to the nests, where the parents accepted them 
back and raised them. In 2007, IWS allowed two nesting pairs, which historically had the 
lowest DDT contamination in their eggs, to attempt to hatch young naturally. It turned out 
that DDT levels had finally decreased enough to allow bald eagles to successfully hatch eggs 
in the wild. 
 
"We were excited to have successful breeding by the bald eagles on Catalina after almost 30 
years of restoration efforts," Sharpe said. "I didn't expect the DDT contamination to fall to 
levels that would allow successful reproduction for decades." 
 
By 2009, all nests on Catalina were left to natural hatching and incubation. Thanks to the 
dedication of the IWS and its staff, working in cooperation with the Catalina Island 
Conservancy, Catalina-native bald eagles once again soar along the Island's cliffs. 

 

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