The Chesapeake Bay plays a significant role in the life cycle of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) along the entire Atlantic coast of the U.S. In addition to supporting a resident breeding population, the Chesapeake Bay is an area of convergence for post-nesting and subadult Bald Eagles from breeding populations in the southeastern and northeastern U.S. The convergence of three geographically distinct populations (northeast, southeast, and Chesapeake Bay) suggests that the Bay plays a particularly important role in the recovery of Bald Eagles in eastern North America. Since the ban on DDT and formal listing under the Endangered Species Act, the Chesapeake Bay breeding population has increased dramatically. Between the early 1970s and 2001 the population within the Bay and vicinity has grown exponentially from 60 to 646 pairs with an average doubling time of just over eight years. Reproductive rates have increased over this time period and are now similar to those documented prior to the DDT era. With the current rate of increase, the population is expected to reach saturation within the next decade. Bald Eagles continue to be vulnerable to the potential introduction of new biocides into the estuary, human disturbance within nesting and foraging areas, and the loss of habitat to urban and industrial development. The tidal fresh reaches of the estuary appear to support core breeding areas, as well as, concentration areas for migrant populations and should be priorities for long-term conservation efforts.
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Vol. 30 • No. sp1