Bald Eagles at the West Cape May Bridge 2016

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Cape May, NJ – Bald Eagles are a common sighting this fall in the Cape May area. Not only are migrants moving through Cape May, but the local nesting birds also have been active and are providing a show for birders and non-birders alike.

Recently, a pair of eagles has been perching on the tall electric pole visible from the West Cape May Bridge on the north side of the Cape May Canal.

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They’ve been coming and going from this spot for at least a month or two. The larger of the two eagles, on the left, above, is the female. The male is on the right.

These adult birds may be the pair that has nested in past years south of the Canal somewhere between Bayshore Road and the Delaware Bay.

This may not be the only Bald Eagle pair in the area this season.   Two adult eagles were soaring with vultures in the fields west of Bayshore Road recently. Those birds may be commencing their courtship for 2017.  In that case, nesting would start in January or early February.

In recent years, Eagles also have been spotted perched in trees over garages and barns south of the Canal. In some cases people have walked directly below them without scaring them off their perches.

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This behavior shows that Bald Eagles, far from being a rare sighting, are habituating to people. That helps to explain their population explosion in the eastern United States.

They now are nesting successfully even in large cities including New York, Washington, Minneapolis, and Seattle.

The increased sightings of Bald Eagles in Cape May reflects the increase overall. Since the late 1980s when there was only one pair of these birds nesting in New Jersey, the number has shot up to 161 nesting pairs in 2015.

Last year, eagles raised 200 eaglets in New Jersey alone.

No surprise then to see Bald Eagles soaring overhead in Cape May this time of year. They’re becoming part of the landscape.

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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.