Flying High

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Once endangered and teetering on the brink of extinction, the Bald Eagle is doing well; actually, very well, according to a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report that says those eagle populations have quadrupled since 2009. Scientists in the agency’s Migratory Bird Program estimate the population has climbed to 316,700 eagles in the lower 48 states. They know of 71,000 nesting pairs, a huge jump from 1963 when only 417 nesting pairs were known of, an all-time low.

Their return has been attributed to ongoing conservation and protection efforts along with banning the then popular pesticide DDT, which weakened eggshells and hindered reproduction. The current tally, detailed in a 2020 survey report  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Final Report: Bald Eagle Population Size: 2020 Update can be found online.

The survey work that led to the report was conducted over 2018 and 2019, using flyovers and ground observations in cooperation with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the citizen science data that is collected on the popular online birdwatching database called eBird, found at https://ebird.org/home.

“The recovery of the bald eagle is one of the most well-known conservation success stories of all time,” FWS Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams recently told the press. “The Service continues to work with our partners in state and federal agencies, tribes, non-government organizations and with private landowners to ensure that our nation’s symbol continues to flourish.”

Breeding eagles lay one to three eggs each year. They hatch about 35 days out and are flying within three months. In 1782 when America adopted the Bald Eagle as national symbol, the country “may have had as many as 100,000 nesting eagles,” FWS reports. Loss of habitat, shooting and DDT poisoning all contributed to their decline. Some also die from ingesting lead shotgun pellets.

Bald Eagles today are a joy to behold in both wild and rural settings. Their presence draws attention and praise whenever they are seen. –HM

About Howard Meyerson

After more than 30 years in the outdoor writing business, you would think I'd know better.
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