We evaluated the relationship between salinity and Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) population parameters using 26 years of survey data for the lower Chesapeake Bay. Tidal tributaries within the study area were stratified according to the Chesapeake Bay Program's segmentation scheme, and segments with the same salinity classification were considered spatial replicates. Salinity categories included tidal fresh, oligohaline, mesohaline, and polyhaline. Four parameters— colonization rate, nesting density, projected carrying capacity, and productivity— were derived from nesting data within each shoreline segment and compared across the salinity gradient. The study-wide Bald Eagle population is exhibiting exponential growth, with an average doubling time of 7.9 years. All population parameters showed significant directional variation with salinity. Average population doubling time for tidal fresh reaches was <6 years, compared with >16 years for polyhaline areas. Current Bald Eagle nesting density is negatively related to salinity and varies by a factor of 4 across the gradient. Comparison of current densities with projected carrying capacity suggests that these differences will be stable or increasing as the geographic areas approach equilibrium densities. We suggest that fisheries within lower saline reaches, including spring spawning runs of anadromous Clupeidae (shad and herring), are the most likely explanation for salinity effects. Observed distribution patterns suggest that lands along low-salinity waters are the core of the Bald Eagle nesting population within the lower Chesapeake Bay and should be the focus of long-term programs designed to benefit nesting eagles.
Salinidad y Parámetros Poblacionales de Haliaeetus leucocephalus en la Bahia de Chesapeake