Gov. Deval Patrick visits Quabbin Reservoir to help band eagle chicks
Gov. Deval Patrick, right, and Ralph Taylor, Connecticut Valley supervisor for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, examine an eagle chick being banded at the Quabbin Reservoir on Thursday. Purchase photo reprints »
Two eagle chicks are seen in their nest at the Quabbin Reservoir on Thursday during a visit by Gov. Deval Patrick who participated in banding of the birds. There are now 30 active bald eagle nests in Massachusetts, including six at Quabbin. Purchase photo reprints »
BELCHERTOWN — When Betsy and Ross were brought to the Quabbin Reservoir in 1982 from Michigan they became the first pair of nesting bald eagles in Massachusetts since the beginning of the century, and helped jump-start the species’ recovery.
Today there are 30 active bald eagle nests in Massachusetts, including six at the Quabbin Reservoir, according to the state.
On Thursday, Gov. Deval Patrick visited the Quabbin to help Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife officials examine and band two bald eagle chicks on an island in the reservoir.
“The Quabbin is a remarkable setting and peaceful landscape, a great break from Beacon Hill,” Patrick said, laughing.
The eagle chicks were retrieved from their nest by Kurt Palmateer, assistant fish culturist at the Mclaughlin Fish Hatchery, and lowered to the ground in bags while the mother eagle kept her distance as she circled the nest.
Each chick weighed about 10 pounds, close to adult size, said Andrew Vitz, state ornithologist. Patrick and Lisa Sullivan, wife of Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard K. Sullivan Jr., each got a turn to hold one of the chicks.
“They’re powerful and delicate at the same time,” Patrick said. “It’s quite amazing to have something that wild in your hands.”
Patrick remained in good spirits even when his hand was nicked by one of the eagle’s talons, which are so sharp they can tear right to the bone if used with full force, said Ralph Taylor, the MassWildlife district supervisor.
Bald eagles were listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1978 and were removed from the list in 2007.
According to the Massachusetts Audubon Society, about 104 wintering eagles were counted in Massachusetts in 2011. The Quabbin alone has been home to as many as 50 individuals at a time, said William Pula, superintendent at the Quabbin.
The bands placed on the chicks will help wildlife officials monitor their movements and identify the birds when they are captured again for examination.
The eagle population is still susceptible to threats including habitat destruction, and chicks are sometimes killed by predators such as raccoons or when storms blow the nests from their trees, Vitz said. But despite these threats, the species is doing remarkably well across the country, he added.