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The eagles have landed on alewife migration in Maine
Restoration of the Sebasticook River's flow bodes well for the raptors on the rebound.
By Peter McGuire
BENTON — Catching a glimpse of a bald eagle 30 years ago would have been an experience to savor. The large raptors, well-known American national symbols, were just coming back from the brink of extinction. Contamination from a pesticide, loss of habitat, and hunting had reduced the number of eagles to fewer than 500 nationwide in the early 1960s.
Seeing one bird, let alone a nesting pair, would have been rare. But thanks to special legal protections and a national recovery, bald eagles are thriving again.
One need only visit the banks of the lower Sebasticook River in Benton during the annual alewife run in midspring. The fish migrate in the millions from the Gulf of Maine north up the Kennebec and Sebasticook rivers to spawning grounds in lakes and ponds farther north.
During the run, dozens of eagles descend on the river, feasting on the easily available fish and loading up after a lean winter. Researchers regularly document 40 to 50 eagles at a time in a 5-mile stretch of the Sebasticook from the former Halifax Dam site in Winslow to the functioning Benton Falls Dam in Benton.
To learn more, download BRI Science Communications Series: Maine's Sebasticook River: A Rare and Critical Resource for Bald Eagles in the Northeast
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