Look up! Bald eagles are back in force in New Jersey
New Jersey's bald eagles are soaring right now, in greater numbers than have been seen in a long time.
Peter Dunne is ambassador of birding for the New Jersey Audubon Society. He said the group has counted about 150 nests in New Jersey — and you can estimate two eagles for each.
"I would say in the last 30 years, our numbers have increased exponentially," Dunne said.
According to Dunne, the idea of home is kind of fluid, too. Just because a bird has a nest somewhere does not make it home. "That is just where they go to rear their young," he said."
"Many birds spend the balance of their lives, most of their lives, away from the place that they breed," Dunne said,
A great number of migratory northern birds are also wintering in New Jersey, and that may be bringing the total number of eagles to 500 or 600, he estimated.
And where do they concentrate?
"Wherever there is open water, you are going to have bald eagles now," Dunne said.
He said Cumberland, Cape May and Salem counties are "eagle-rich."
But it wasn't always like that. Years ago, the numbers of bald eagles in New Jersey and elsewhere were very diminished because of the overuse of the pesticide DDT. But sharp curtailment of that chemical in more recent times has helped the population.
Dunne also said birds stay here for another reason: "In winter, birds of prey go where the food is. No matter what the species, what drives them, what concentrates them is the availability of food."
Dunne said the population resurgence of bald eagles makes an environmental statement.
"What the eagles are saying with their presence here is that we are living a very healthy environment, which is very good news for everybody," he said.
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.