Bald eagle populations have reached a 23-year high in the Bay watershed — and for the first time since the 1940s, an active nest with a fledgling has been recorded in the District of Columbia — according to data released in March by the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Results from the annual Baywide bald eagle population count show 533 active nests with 813 fledgling eaglets, nearly a 10 percent increase from last year’s 486 nests and 706 young eagles.

Most of the increases have occurred in the Maryland and Virginia portions of the watershed. Lower numbers in Pennsylvania are attributed to the absence of open Bay waters.

The eagle population declined largely as the result of DDT contamination. The ban on DDT in 1972, along with support from the federal Endangered Species Act, has helped the bird’s recovery in recent years.

The eagle population has also benefited from numerous state and Baywide restoration efforts aimed at improving the quality of local waters and the Bay. Land preservation and forest restoration have improved the eagle’s habitat, while water quality improvements have improved fisheries, thereby increasing the bird’s food supply.

For information about the resurgence of bald eagle in the Bay watershed, including population data sets, photographs and a brief history of efforts to restore the species, visit