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Bald eagles nesting along the Delaware: First since Colonial times?

A pair of bald eagles have established a nest near the confluence of the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, possibly the first such nest within Philadelphia city limits since Colonial times, according to a new report on environmental conditions along the Delaware released today by the Delaware River Basin Commission.

"Since the main diet of the eagles are fish, it is thought that the birds are returning in nests near the Delaware River in greater numbers due to a greater abundance of fish and cleaner water," the report says. "The return of the bald eagle to Delaware basin watersheds is an astonishing success story.

"Bald eagle nests have increased significantly. In 2004 for example, 96 nests were spotted in the basin, up from 44 in 2001. The Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940prohibited shooting or otherwise harming the birds in the US, but this protection did not prevent damage from pesticides that harm their eggs. By the 1960s only about 400 breeding pairs of bald eagles remained in the lower 48 states and they were declared an endangered species in 1967. The banning of DDT in 1972 and other measures launched an amazing comeback for eagles, and by 1995 their status was upgraded from endangered to threatened. Today, with more than 6,000 breeding pairs, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to remove eagles from the nation's Endangered Species list later in 2007."

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