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Bald eagle numbers are soaring

Mary Whitfill

The Patriot Ledger USA TODAY NETWORK

QUINCY, Mass. – The number of American bald eagles has quadrupled since 2009, and more than 300,000 birds soar over the lower 48 states, government scientists said in a report. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that bald eagles, the national symbol that once teetered on the brink of extinction, have flourished in recent years, growing to more than 71,400 nesting pairs and about 316,700 birds.

“We're approaching 80 pairs of bald eagles statewide, which is absolutely wonderful,” said Dave Paulson of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Paulson said the eagles tend to nest in tall white pines near lakes, ponds and rivers. He said reporting of nests by the public helps the state agency paint a picture of the population's growth.

A nesting eaglet was seen last year on the South Shore of Massachusetts, Paulson said, and before that, the last sighting of a baby was 115 years ago.

“It really captivates the local community because they are this majestic species that people grew up not seeing, but we're seeing them more and more,” he said. “The fact that they are starting to enter into these suburbs and easterly towns is wonderful.”

Bald eagles reached 417 known nesting pairs in 1963 in the lower 48 states. After decades of protection, including placement on the endangered species list in more than 40 states, the population has grown. The bald eagle was removed from the threatened or endangered species list in 2007.

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