Thirty years after there was just one known bald eagle nest in the state, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has now counted nearly 110 active nests from near Manhattan to Cape May County at the mouth of the Delaware River.
"We know we're still in a growing phase seeing new nests every year," said Kathy Clark, a biologist with the DEP's Endangered and Non-game Species Division.
Clark has been with the program from the beginning, since that one lonely nest was spotted in South Jersey.
Eagles were brought in from Canada, while at the same time the Clean Water Act kicked in, leading to major environmental improvements in the Garden State.
Now, roughly 150 eaglets were born this spring, and at least half of them are expected to survive to adulthood, according to Clark.
She allowed NBC 4 New York a rare opportunity to observe a banding operation at a nest on the Newton Reservoir, which is actually in Sparta, N.J.
There, Erica Miller of Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research drew blood that will be analyzed for environmental chemicals such as lead, DDT, PCBs, mercury and more.
"It's all still present. The stuff we put out there stays, even things like DDT that's been banned for so long," Miller said.
After bands are put on both legs, the eaglets' heads are covered with a hood and they're put into a bag and hauled by rope back to their nest.
Within another month or so, they should be able to fly, and shortly after that, they will leave their nest forever and look for a home of their own.
Wildlife agents hope many of them will stay in New Jersey.
Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4ny.
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