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The number of bald eagles nesting in Massachusetts appears to be steadily growing amid three decades of efforts to re-establish a natural population of the nation's animal here.
State wildlife officials announced last week that they identified 76 territorial pairs of bald eagles this nesting season, up from 68 pairs last year and the 59 pairs counted in 2016.
From those 76 nests this year, MassWildlife said 65 chicks hatched and survived to fly. Forty-five of the chicks were "banded with silver federal bands and color-coded state bands," MassWildlife said.
Bald eagles disappeared from Massachusetts around the turn of the 20th century, with the last known nesting attempt taking place in Sandwich in 1905, MassWildlife said. Upon discovering that some eagles were spending winters in the Quabbin Reservoir area in the early 1980s, MassWildlife and others began restoration efforts.
Young eaglets from wild nests in Canada were raised in cages overlooking the reservoir and eventually released in hopes that they would stay in the area to later nest themselves. Forty-one chicks successfully were raised using this "hacking" method, MassWildlife said.
The first adult territorial pair resulting from the "hacking" releases was discovered at the Quabbin Reservoir in 1987, and in 1989, two nesting pairs successfully fledged a total of three chicks, restarting the state's natural bald eagle population.
In the 30 years since, at least 769 wild-born bald eagle chicks have grown to fly and an additional eight chicks that were captive-born and fostered have also fledged, a state-born total of 777 chicks, according to MassWildlife.
The count is not a full picture of bald eagle nesting in Massachusetts, which has centered largely around the Quabbin Reservoir and, more recently, Lake Quinsigamond, state wildlife officials said. MassWildlife encouraged the public to report any observations of eagles that are suspected or known to have nests.
Officials said observations of nests or of adults carrying sticks or nest lining material are of special interest. Observations can be sent to state ornithologist Andrew Vitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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