World’s oldest bald eagle dies at 39

July 6, 2015 • 9:30 am

by Grania

Sad news from New York, last week a Bald Eagle named Eagle 629-03142 died at the age of 38, significantly older than the usual 20 year lifespan of these birds.

The eagle benefited from being part of a program to replace New York’s decimated eagle population after DDT had ravaged them by the early 1970s, so badly that it was placed on the federal endangered species list. Only one single breeding pair remained in the area at the time.

Elizabeth Deatrick explains:

Biologists had a plan to replace New York’s absent eagles. At just a few weeks old, 03142, as he was known, was whisked from his Minnesotan nest and taken to New York’s Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, along with a few eaglets from other states. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), which ran the program, wanted the eaglets to imprint on their new location, not on people, so the biologists raised the eaglets using a low-contact technique called “hacking,” hiding from the young birds and housing them in cages on stilts. These “hacking towers” gave the eaglets an excellent view out over Montezuma Refuge, and kept them safe as they grew.

The biologists hoped that the young eagles would stick around their new home after they fledged—and so they did. A few years later, the male half of New York’s last original breeding pair died, and 03142 took his place in the old nest at Hemlock Lake. Over next few decades, 03142 fathered many young eaglets, doing his part to push his species out of danger.

As Deatrick notes, these birds are still at risk from humans in the form of poisoning, shooting and road accidents; but the population has recovered dramatically and is no longer on the endangered species list.

h/t: Taskin

9 thoughts on “World’s oldest bald eagle dies at 39

  1. I don’t know how bad things were here in Missouri as compared to NY, but I didn’t see my first bald eagle until i was 7or 8, then didn’t see another for another 5 years or so. Today, however, I can drive a bit over an hour to a wildlife refuge and see 30, 40 or more, at least in the winter. This is one of those very rare environmental success stories. With all the horrible things that are happening to lions, elephants, rhinos, sharks, and even bees, it is nice to get some good news for a change, even if it’s probably just a lull in the degradation, and we’ll find some other creative way to try to rub them out.

  2. This is more proof that humans can make a huge difference in protecting and saving an endangered species when we put our efforts behind it. Just as we can effortlessly wipe out a species, we can with effort save a species. If anything is lacking, it is the funds, the awareness and the political will. (I’m speaking more from a U.S. perspective.) In war torn and economically stagnated countries like Africa, the hope seems to be dwindling.

  3. I’m fortunate enough to live in an area where bald eagle and other magnificent birds of prey are a regular sight. I was standing outside once and the shadow of a bald eagle went right by me, as long as I am tall. They are amazing.

    I’ve heard them take off from the nest; the wings beat loud and slow—shwoop, shwoop, shwoop—and you can really appreciate all the weight that is being lofted by the downward movement of air, by nothing more than rodent-powered muscle. Evolution worked that all out eons before a guy named Newton penned the stuff about each action having an equal and opposite reaction.

    Here is a little reflection I wrote after seeing a pair of bald eagles along with other beautiful things on a winter day a couple of years ago:

    Sadly, climate change is impacting us here in the Pacific Northwest, too. Our beautiful forests are burning scarily this summer, and the winters are getting less snowy and cold, leaving us with drought conditions.

    1. That was a nice vignette, thanks for sharing.

      I live in the NW too and though we are experiencing alarming dry weather and mild winters, the models trend towards us becoming more wet, not dry. The general rule is, the wetter the place, the wetter it will get, the drier the place, the drier it will get. Though I agree that hasn’t proven itself to be true in the last 9 months or so.

    1. If by “issues”, you mean “I posted a comment but it didn’t show up”, then I suspect that it’s due to some sort of caching issue on the server. I’ve seen this happen occasionally, and the comments (when I remember to check back) do eventually show up.

  4. At Poughkeepsie NY, when I first arrived in the 1990’s Eagles were still a rare sight along the Hudson River. The newspaper would report a nest in the area found by birders but they were careful not to publish the exact location lest they be pestered by oglers.
    Now however, there recovery is very evident. We see at least a few of them almost any time you spend an hour on the river. Truly gratifying.
    I also saw one the other day flying my Glasair Sportsman just North of here at 2000 feet.

  5. I was living at the other end of the lake when ol’ 03142 was being introduced. Montezuma was a wonderful escape.

    Ed, there was a time in the Pacific NW when eagles were much harder to see there, as well.

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