The bald eagle is the national symbol of the United States of America. It was made the national symbol in 1782 by the Second Continental Congress because the bald eagle is a species unique to North America.
Bald eagles are a very important part of nature. They eat dead animal matter which helps keep nature clean. Since bald eagles are hunters, they keep animal populations strong. They do this by eating the older, weaker or slower animals leaving the more healthy ones to survive.
Bald eagles can be found in every state in the United States except for Hawaii. Half of the world’s bald eagles are found in Alaska. They live near lakes, marshes, seacoasts and rivers where there are lots of fish and other small animals to eat. The bald eagles also like to nest in tall trees. They use the same nest every year by adding fresh grass, moss, new twigs and branches. One nest was found that was used for 34 years and weighed over two tons!
The population of bald eagles was at its highest in the 1700s with estimates of 300,000 to 500,000 birds. Populations fell during the 1950s to threatened levels of less than 10,000 nesting pairs. The population kept falling in the 1960s with 417 nesting pairs left. Bald eagles were close to becoming extinct. What was causing the bald eagle’s population to decline so fast? It was humans. The use of pesticides on crops, destruction of their habitats, contamination of water and food from poison and pollutants and human
shootings all led to the decline of the bald eagle population. The pesticide DDT was especially harmful to the bald eagles. DDT made the bald eagle’s eggshells thinner, which caused them to break during incubation.
In the 1970s, Americans decided to save the bald eagle from extinction by making strong laws protecting endangered species and the environment. The use of DDT is now outlawed in the United States. This has helped a lot to restore the bald eagle population in America. Today, there are over 20,000 bald eagles in the lower 48 states and over 35,000 in Alaska.
In 1995, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) upgraded the bald eagle status from “endangered” to “threatened.” In February 2006, the USFWS proposed to declare the bald eagle “recovered” in the lower 48 states and to remove it from the list of threatened species protected by the Endangered Species Act. If the bald eagle is removed from the list, it will still be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The Bald Eagle Protection Act prohibits the transport, sale, trade, import and export, and possession of eagles. Someone possessing a feather or other body part of a bald eagle can be fined $10,000 and/or put in jail.
Even though the bald eagle population has increased and is protected by laws, they are still in danger of being killed by guns, traps, power lines, poisons and other man-made things. People need to be aware of this and make every effort to help enforce and obey the laws, preserve the bald eagle habitat and support environmental conservation programs. It is ultimately the responsibility of Americans to protect their national symbol.
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“American Bald Eagle Information.” Bald Eagle Info.com. 28 January 2007 <http://www.baldeagleinfo.com>.
“Bald Eagle.” Endangered Animal Center. 28 January 2007 <http://www.worldkids.net/eac/eagle.html>.
“Bald Eagle and the Endangered Species Act.” National Wildlife Federation. 28 January 2007 <http://www.nwf.org/endangered/baldeagle.cfm>.
Grier, James W. "Eagle." World Book Online Reference Center. 2007.
28 January 2007 <http://www.worldbookonline.com/wb/Article?id=ar171200>.
Permission to use all of the photographs on this page is granted under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License or images are in the public domain from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page> (March, 2007).
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