Bald Eagle Conservation Project
In 2013, RBG was home to the first eaglets to hatch on the Canadian shoreline of Lake Ontario in over 50 years.
Royal Botanical Gardens has the perfect environment to convince Bald Eagles to settle in. These large predators need at least 100 hectares of undisturbed forest to nest and roost, plus an adjacent 50 hectares of wetlands to allow them to catch fish. We have it all right here, and on March 22 and 23, 2013, the first eaglets to hatch on the Canadian shoreline of Lake Ontario in over 50 years, broke free of their eggs: a testament to the environmental restoration work that has taken place at RBG and Hamilton Harbour.
History of Bald Eagles at RBG
It has been decades since Bald Eagles nested on the Canadian shores of Lake Ontario. In fact, by the early 1980s, mostly as a result of widespread use of the pesticide DDT, there were only four active nests in all of the Great Lakes. That equals approximately 15 surviving birds. The species was all but locally extinct.
Nowadays, with the effects of DDT behind us — it was phased out beginning in the early 1970s — and with serious conservation efforts, the Bald Eagle has made a comeback. There are now 31 active nests on the Great Lakes, and another 30 on lakes north of 49th parallel. But there has not been a single successful nest on the Canadian shores of Lake Ontario. Until now!
Bald Eagles have overwintered in Cootes Paradise at Royal Botanical Gardens for the last few years. In 2008 a pair stayed for the entire summer — which lead our conservation staff to believe that the time was right for a pair to settle in and call Cootes their own. This means building a nest, laying eggs, raising young and becoming a highly visible and inspirational symbol of why we need to think green and save the environment for generations to come.
Update – Spring 2020
The eagles have nest successfully again, however in a new nest, well hidden from public view. Two eaglets are being raised and will fledge near the end of June. In addition, multiple addition juvenile eagles have also taken up residents around Cootes Paradise. The best trail to observe the eagles from is the Sassafrass or Princess Point trails on the south side of Cootes Paradise. Please remain on RBG trails and respect the privacy of these beautiful birds!
What do Bald Eagles need?
- A large body of water, usually a marsh larger than 30 hectares, to supply them with fish, birds and other small mammals to eat.
- A relatively large patch of undisturbed mature forest (large trees) in which to nest within 0.5 km of the hunting area and at least 0.5 km from people.
- A large patch of woodland in which to rest and shelter during the non-nesting season; experts suggest a minimum of 260 hectares of woodland.
What is RBG doing?
- Continuing with our wetland restoration program, Project Paradise, to ensure suitable hunting grounds exist in this 250-hectare marsh.
- Striking a better balance between visitor access and wild spaces. This means modifying our trail network (Hopkins Loop and Grey Doe Trails) to ensure that adequate undisturbed forest exists while ensuring visitors the opportunity to experience wildlife in adjacent areas. We have also clearly posted a 15-hectare Special Protection Area around the nest site.
- Erected the beginnings of a Bald Eagle nest in very large White Pine tree in an isolated area on the north shore of Cootes Paradise. Though the eagles investigated other potential nest trees, in the end they have settled on this White Pine.
Learn more about RBG’s conservation efforts with these downloadable PDF resources and external links.
Support Conservation at RBG
These conservation projects are possible thanks to the generous support of RBG Members and donors. With a donation to Growing up Green, you can ensure an active, vibrant and healthy future for the children of today and tomorrow through our horticultural and conservation projects.
Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) is the largest botanical garden in Canada, a National Historic Site, and registered charitable organization with a mandate to bring together people, plants and nature.