Jeff Green | Oct 11, 2007
Feature Article - October 11, 2007 Feature Article - October 11, 2007
Bringing Back the Bald Eagleby Jeff Green
If someone based their estimate of the population of towns like Northbrook, Plevna, Sharbot Lake, or Verona on the number of cars in the Foodland, Freshmart or IGA stores in each of the villages during the August long weekend, they would say that each of them have thousands of residents. But most of those cars are owned by seasonal residents and tourists. The year-round populations of the villages have been merely stable, at best, for the past 25 years.
It’s much the same with Bald Eagles, but the numbers are much lower.Although Bald Eagle sightings may not be that uncommon in Eastern Ontario, most of those birds are winter or summer tourists. The breeding population, in spite of a concerted effort over the past 20 years, is still only 1-3 nesting pairs on Lake Ontario, and 5 north of the lake, including a pair each on Bobs, Crow, and Wolfe Lakes.
As low as that figure is, it represents an improvement over the situation in 1980, when there was a single nesting pair in southern Ontario (in Essex County). At the turn of the twentieth century there had been an estimated 200 nesting pairs in the same region.
In a workshop about Bald Eagles that was held last week in Mountain Grove, sponsored by the Frontenac Stewardship Council, Brenda Van Sleeuwen of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources explained how European settlement and the establishment of farms and towns early in the century led to a loss of suitable habitat for bald eagles, and when combined with the impact of insecticides in the 1930s, particularly DDT, the birds stopped reproducing.
In 1983, the Southern Ontario Bald Eagle monitoring project was established, and efforts to re-establish nesting has had some success, but the numbers of nesting pairs are still very low, particularly on Lake Ontario.Bald Eagles can live for 30 years in the wild, and they mate for life under normal circumstances. They feed primarily on fish, aquatic birds and mammals, but they are opportunistic feeders and their diet can be quite varied. They build nests on tall trees that stand up above the forest canopy, and they will nest at the same location for years. Eagle nests are the largest of any North American bird: up to 4 m deep, 2.5 m wide and one tonne in weight.
In order to encourage Bald Eagles to nest in southern Ontario, nest platforms have been erected at locations that look suitable.
Funding is available through the “Canada Ontario Agreement respecting the Great Lakes basin” towards putting up nest platforms near Lake Ontario, and a site that looks suitable has been found on Wolfe Island.
Ian Brummel, from Mazinaw Lake, wondered why it is that efforts are being made to encourage eagles to nest on Lake Ontario, when inland locations on the Canadian Shield seem to be more desirable for the eagles.
Bret Colman, Frontenac Stewardship Coordinator, replied, “That’s true, but the funding from the Canada Ontario Agreement must be spent in the vicinity of the great lakes. We will have to seek funding elsewhere to build platforms on inland lakes.”
Individual landowners are encouraged to protect wilderness habitat where possible, and to leave the tallest trees behind when developing lands. Other important measures include protecting fish and waterfowl areas. When eagles nests are located, the surrounding area should be left undisturbed if possible between February and August.
For more information on eagles or other species at risk, go to http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/mnr/speciesatrisk/ or contact the Frontenac Stewardship Council at 613-531-5714.