Buds N Bugs: Bald eagles

A bald eagle snatches a mullet from the surf on Cape San Blas.

A bald eagle snatches a mullet from the surf on Cape San Blas.

Vince Bishop
Published: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 04:12 PM.

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is the largest raptor in North America .

A sea eagle or ern, it feeds mainly on fish and is found near large bodies of water. It nests in old growth trees. They are scavengers as well as hunters and a large part of their diet is dead fish.

This is the only eagle unique to North America . The bald eagle is both the national bird and national animal of the United States of America . It appears on the national seal.

In the late 20th century, it was on the brink of extinction in the US .

There is a widely held belief that DDT contamination of fish led to the bald eagle’s demise. While pesticides were part of the problem, bald eagles had virtually disappeared from New England by 1937, almost a decade before DDT came into common use. In a report issued by US Fish and Wildlife in 1978, the reduction in the eagle population is attributed to loss of habitat due to development and illegal shooting.

It’s a dirty secret that, before they were protected by the 1940 Bald Eagle Protection Act the birds were considered a nuisance. Hunters, farmers and fishermen routinely shot them.

In any case, the rebound of this magnificent bird is a tremendous success story. The species was removed from the federal government's list of endangered species on July 12, 1995 and transferred to the list of threatened species. It was removed from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife in the lower 48 states on June 28, 2007.

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