Cape May Bald Eagles – Coming to a Tree Near You! 2015

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CAPE MAY, NJ -  When my neighbor asked me if I wanted to see a Bald Eagle, I said sure. Who wouldn’t want to see a Bald Eagle near their home? I was stunned to find the bird perched in a Siberian elm right over a garage in a backyard on Bayshore Road.

The eagle had been there for almost an hour when we arrived, about 50 feet above the ground.  We walked directly to the tree. The eagle didn’t even flinch. I wondered if it was sick or injured, but it looked perfectly fine and healthy.

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We left 30 minutes later because we were freezing, but the bird was still there. It couldn’t have cared less that we walked around beneath the tree taking photographs and talking in a normal tone of voice.

Mike Crewe, the Program Director for the Cape May Bird Observatory, was rather nonchalant about this eagle. He had seen that bird or others previously. He says Bald Eagles are becoming more and more common in the neighborhood.

That Bald Eagles are being found in places where we never expected them is a testament to their amazing comeback.

When I moved to Cape May in 1987, Bald Eagles were a big deal. It was relatively rare to see one and they were still on the endangered species list. How things have changed!

From near extinction, this formerly endangered species has undergone a population explosion over much of North America.

From only one nest in New Jersey in 1987, the species has expanded to about 150 nests today. There is even a nest on Cape Island, which has produced young for at least the last 3 years.

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Although eagles were once thought to be shy and reclusive, today they are regular visitors to suburban and even urban areas. I see them regularly along the Garden State Parkway as they soar above traffic or the adjacent marshes. Apparently, they are adapting to human activity in a positive, but unexpected way.

As the Bald Eagle success story unfolds, we are likely to see more and more Bald Eagles on Cape Island, especially near Higbee Beach and Cape May Point State Park.  All you have to do is be observant and you will see them.

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About Paul Kerlinger

Paul Kerlinger, Ph.D. is a scientist, author and nationally known expert on bird migration. He's done extensive studies on hawks, Snowy Owls and neotropical song birds. Kerlinger is the former director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, His books include How Birds Migrate and Flight Strategies of Migrating Hawks. He's an ardent fly fisherman and organic vegetable gardener.