For the first time in 115 years, wildlife officials have spotted a bald eagle nest with eggs on Cape Cod. This find marks an exciting development as the bald eagle population continues to soar to new heights in the Massachusetts area, officials say in a statement.
As Caroline Enos reports for the Boston Globe, officials from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife spotted the nest in the town of Barnstable. The new nest is the first sighting since 1905, when a nest with eggs was spotted in nearby Sandwich.
MassWildlife announced in the statement that it had documented more than 70 active bald eagle nests in Massachusetts this nesting season—an uptick from years past, Sophie Lewis reports for CBS News.
“People are just awestruck when they see a bald eagle,” Marion Larson, a spokeswoman for MassWildlife, tells the Boston Globe. “There’s a thrill to seeing them here because they weren’t in Massachusetts for quite a few years.”
Pollution from industrial pesticides such as DDT, habitat destruction and illegal shooting drove the national bird almost to extinction in the 1960s. The species was one of the first to be protected by the protected by the Endangered Species Act, according to the American Bird Conservancy. Due to conservation efforts, its numbers have rebounded in recent years. Bald eagles were officially de-listed as “endangered” in 2007, as Smithsonian magazine reported at the time.
Bald eagles were absent from Massachusetts from 1905 to 1982, according to the Boston Globe. Successful reintroduction programs have grown the local bald eagle population to the point that they were recently downgraded from “threatened” to “special concern” on the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act list, per the statement.
“We’re always checking the old nests to see if there is actually nesting activity going on,” Larson tells the Boston Globe. “We found nine new nests so far this year, which is really exciting.”
Bald eagles are the largest bird of prey in the state of Massachusetts, Aristos Georgiou reports for Newsweek. The birds are known for building enormous nests—the largest bald eagle nest ever recorded was in St. Petersburg, Florida, and measured a staggering 9.5 feet across and 20 feet tall, per the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
As their population bounces back, bald eagle nests have been popping up across the United States—sometimes in surprising places. Just last month, a pair of bald eagle parents was spotted nesting in a saguaro cactus in Arizona. As Katherine Wu reported for Smithsonian magazine, the Arizona Game and Fish Department captured the first-ever photographic evidence of the symbolic birds nesting in the tree-like cacti. Another pair of bald eagles recently returned to nest for the third year in a north Orange County neighborhood in California, Colleen Shalby reports for the Los Angeles Times.