June 20 is National American eagle day. On this day in 1782, the bald eagle became the United Sates of Americas national symbol. This day we celebrate our national bird but also the conservation story of how close we were to loosing them and the effort and work that went into this to help bring their population back.
In the 1700s, there were over 100,000 nesting pair of eagles, but their initial decline was recorded all the way back in the 1800s which coincided with the decline of waterfowl and other birds of prey. But the major population crash was with the introduction of DDT in the 1940’s. It was the first modern synthetic insecticide created to combat malaria and other insect borne diseases. Unfortunantly the residue from this chemical washed into the waterways where it entered into the food chain, from the aquatic plants to fish and then to the bald eagle and other birds of prey. The chemical once absorbed interfered with their ability to lay strong eggs causing the shells to be very brittle. Because of this the eggs laid where crushed while being incubated, and this effect wasnt just isolated to the bald eagle. Other birds also felt the effect of DDT including pelicans, peregrine falcons, golden eagles and even robins.
Luckily by 1972 DDT was banned completely in the United States. At this time the bald eagle, our national symbol, was listed as Endangered or threated in most of the states. There was even only 487 nesting pairs recorded in 1963.
Projects across the United States were launched in effort to halt the species from becoming extinct which were very successful and in 2007 they were removed from the endangered species list. It is estimated as of 2015 that we have aproximatly 14,000 nesting pairs.
Nowadays it’s not too uncommon to see a bald eagle soaring through the sky, fishing by the lakes and rivers. There are even two nests within a few miles of where I live, barely days go by without at least seeing one.