Bald eagles found on California island for first time in 50 years

LOS ANGELES Thu Jul 17, 2014 6:35pm EDT

A bald eagle takes off as U.S. marathon runner Meb Keflezighi (not pictured) trains for the London 2012 Olympics in Mammoth Lakes, California May 29, 2012.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

A bald eagle takes off as U.S. marathon runner Meb Keflezighi (not pictured) trains for the London 2012 Olympics in Mammoth Lakes, California May 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A pair of nesting bald eagles have been found on San Clemente Island off the Southern California coast for the first time in more than 50 years, the National Park Service said on Thursday, marking the latest step in their comeback from near extinction.

The discovery means that bald eagles, which vanished from the Channel Islands in the early 1960s due to DDT poisoning and once were listed as an endangered species, have now returned to five of the eight islands in the chain.

"This news is very gratifying," Peter Sharpe of the nonprofit Institute for Wildlife Studies said in a statement released by the park service. "I expect to see bald eagles return to all eight of the Channel Islands within a few years, which will mark yet another milestone in their successful recovery."

No chicks have yet been seen in the San Clemente Island nest, which was established by two birds that came from two other islands in the chain, the park service said.

The female eagle, known to scientists as A-32, was hatched in a nest near Juneau, Alaska, in 2014 and released to Santa Cruz Island later that year. The male was hatched on Santa Cruz Island in 2004.

According to the park service there are 60 resident bald eagles in the Channel Islands National Park, with 16 breeding pairs.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb)

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