Six bald eagle chicks were taken from their mothers at eight
weeks and carried aboard the 100-foot Ocean Ranger to manmade nests
on Santa Cruz Island. The chicks — already larger than full-grown
chickens — are being reintroduced to the island in an effort to
undo the damage done by DDT poisonings of the mid-20th century,
when the Montrose Chemical Corporation dumped the shell-thinning
pesticide into the ocean from its Palos Verdes factory, nearly
extinguishing California’s bald eagle population. Four more chicks
from the San Francisco Zoo are due to be transported to the island
later this year as part of the Montrose Settlements Restoration
Program; after that, biologists plan to back off and see how the
birds fare on their own.

On its way back to the mainland, the Ocean Ranger carried four
dead bald eagles to be autopsied; one was found in the water and
probably drowned, while the two found on Santa Rosa Island may have
died from eating lead bullets. Bald eagles eat live fish and, to a
lesser extent, carrion. According to biologists from the Institute
of Wildlife Studies, of the 46 birds reintroduced to the northern
Channel Islands, 30 remain, including two born there and several
who flew there from Santa Catalina, which has its own restoration
program. Their mortality rate has been the same or better than it
normally is in the wild, biologists said. While it is not unusual
for young birds to try to fly to the mainland before they are
strong enough to make it, the scientists have found that attempts
at this kind of crossing become less frequent as the number of
birds on the island increases.  — Martha Sadler


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