Bald eagle.
credit USFWS

American Bald Eagle - status in your state

The bald eagle was made the national bird of the United States in 1782.
The image of the bald eagle can be found in many places in the U.S., such as on the Great Seal,
Federal agency seals, the President's flag, and on the one-dollar bill.1

The Bald Eagle is protected by the United States government and many state governments.

Bald Eagle video on Youtube.

The bald eagle first gained federal protection in 1940, under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The law curbed illegal hunting and shooting of eagles for their feathers. They began to recover.

But eagles, as well as other birds, soon fell victim to another threat: DDT. After World War II, the USDA encouraged spraying DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) to control mosquitoes in coastal areas. Farmers used DDT to control agricultural pests. When it rained, DDT would wash off the soil and into the waterways. There, it was absorbed by aquatic plants and animals. Fish ate the plants and animals, and then eagles ate the fish. When eagles ate contaminated fish, they would then be poisoned. DDT prevented the proper formulation of calcium necessary to produce strong eggshells. Consequently, the thinned eggshells cracked when an adult bird tired to incubate them. Few chicks were born. The Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT on December 31, 1972.

rachel carson

Biologist and writer, Rachel Carson raised the alarm in her historic book Silent Spring. Major chemical companies attacked her, but she stuck to her guns and DDT was banned. 3

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially listed the bald eagle as a national endangered species in 1973.
An “endangered” species is one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

A “threatened” species is one that is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.

Through captive breeding programs, reintroduction of eagles into their historic habitat, protecting nest sites during the breeding season, conserving roosting habitat for food and shelter and enforcing the law against those people who illegally killed eagles, the Endangered Species Act provided protections for the bald eagle.

The last year the FWS conducted a national bald eagle census was 2000. They estimated there were 6471 nesting pairs of bald eagles. In 2007, they announced that they were removing the American Bald Eagle from the Endangered Species List, because there was an estimated high of 9,789 breeding pairs.

Estimated number of nesting pairs in each state | Bald Eagle status 2004

This is a national population figure. Look into the status of Bald Eagles in your state.

* What was the status of the bald eagle in your state in 2004?

* How many pairs are estimated to be in your state today?

* How many wild bald eagles have you seen? (Not in a zoo, not in a movie, not in a video or on TV.)

* How can people ensure the success of bald eagles?

* Should people protect bald eagles? Explain.


Further thinking

Bald eagles, red-tailed hawks offer spectacle as they battle for Harmar nest
All birds of prey are protected in the U.S by the Migratory Bird Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Should someone intervene?

Bald Eagles regularly nest along the Susquehanna River in PA. In 2011, a growing number of fishermen and environmentalists were concerned due to the decline in smallmouth bass populations and the blotches that were appearing on the fish. What implications could this have for bald eagles in Pennsylvania?


Eaglecam | National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines | Bald Eagles @ NGS

Basic Ecology A Free Online Textbook | Indicator Species


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Posted by Cynthia J. O'Hora 9/2007, Updated 5/2023released for noncommercial use by nonprofit organizations & individuals

Cited Sources:

1. Symbols of U.S. Government: The Bald Eagle
2. Bald Eagle, (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
3. Rachel Carson: A Conservation Legacy
4. Service Reopens Comment Period on Removing the Bald Eagle from the Endangered Species Act

6. Bald Eagle Soars Off Endangered Species List
7. Government Vs. Environment By Donald R. Lelal

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