After more than a century, wildlife officials in Massachusetts have discovered a officials said Wednesday.nest with eggs in Cape Cod. The discovery comes as the state's bald eagle population is soaring this season,
Officials from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) found the historic nest in the town of Barnstable. The last known bald eagle nest with eggs on the Cape was identified in 1905 in the town of Sandwich.
Officials have already documented over 70 active nests throughout the state this spring, and reported a "dramatic uptick" in newly documented nests, MassWildlife said. The birds are currently in the middle of their nesting season.
Population growth is welcome news, but officials warn a spike in bald eagles also brings several challenges, including fights with other birds.
In one example, a bald eagle couple took over the nest of an osprey on Martha's Vineyard and began incubating their eggs. But when the osprey returned, a fight broke out and the historic eggs cracked. Another intrusive eagle killed chicks in two mainland nests.
"Although difficult for observers to witness, these events are all signs of a thriving eagle population in Massachusetts," MassWildlife said. "On the upside, more and more people across the Commonwealth are experiencing the thrill of seeing eagles in their own neighborhoods as these birds continue to expand their range to urban and suburban landscapes."
When the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act was introduced in 1990, the bald eagle was listed as "endangered" in the state. But thanks to the successful efforts of conservationists, the species was downgraded to "threatened" in 2008 and again to "special concern" earlier this year.
Decades ago, officials worried the United States could lose the population of its national bird altogether due to heavy pesticide use. But in 2007, the bird that was once considered the poster species and inspiration for the Endangered Species Act was removed from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
MassWildlife also celebrated a new state record in New Hampshire this week for the oldest bald eagle, a 23-year-old male. The bird had hatched in Massachusetts, the group said. "It is safe to say that the eagle reintroduction program that MassWildlife conducted in the 1980s has not only reaped benefits in Massachusetts, but throughout New England," officials said.