24 November 2010 An American Bird You Don’t Want to Eat Posted by: Caitlin Leutwiler | 3 comments | Share: Photo courtesy of the US Military The turkey may be the Thanksgiving Day mascot, but it doesn’t hold a feather to the bald eagle when it comes to representing the United States. The only eagle unique to North America, this majestic bird is emblazoned on our coins and featured on most of our national seals – including the presidential seal. But you’re much more likely to find one of these birds in your wallet than your backyard. Back in 1780, when the bald eagle was chosen as the national symbol for the US, the bird could be found throughout the country. But as American settlers and loggers chopped down the forests and tall trees in which the eagles built their nests, the population began to decline. Then, the introduction of new pesticides in the 1940s – particularly DDT, which caused the birds to lay extremely fragile, breakable eggs – devastated the species. At one time, numbers plummeted to only 500 nesting pairs in the Lower 48. Photo courtesy US Military Fortunately, Americans rallied around their emblem. Public outcry, spurred by Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, led the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the use of DDT in the U.S. in 1972. The next year, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a groundbreaking piece of legislation for wildlife conservation in the country. The ESA curtailed the felling of nesting trees, protected eagle foraging areas and initiated a robust captive-breeding program. The colossal bird of prey recovered at a faster pace than conservationists had ever expected. In June of 2007, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced the removal of the bird from the list of species protected by the ESA, a milestone in the species’ recovery from the brink of extinction. Today, illegal shooting of bald eagles is considered the biggest threat to their survival. Other threats include lead poisoning from eating ducks that have consumed lead shot, power line electrocution and habitat loss. So while you’re celebrating American heritage tomorrow, give thanks for the bird that didn’t just come out of the oven as well – and the landmark legislation that kept the once endangered symbol alive. 3 Responses to “An American Bird You Don’t Want to Eat” cindy hoffman November 29th, 2010 Over Thanksgiving, I went to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in VA and had the privilege of seeing two bald eagles sitting on the water in one of the marshes. Beautiful. Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in Wolf Weekly Wrap-Up Helicopter gunning kills 23 wolves in Idaho; Urge Secretary Jewell to abandon gray wolf delisting proposal — Call your representative by March 14; Washington wildlife agency urged to end support for abolishing federal wolf protections; The latest on Governor Otter’s wolf control board. Two Too Many Development Projects in the Ivanpah Valley While these projects most definitely directly impact a species that has been identified as threatened and is dependent on the habitat where they would be built, Silver State South and Stateline’s approval is most troubling for a bigger reason. You see, this isn’t just an issue for the Ivanpah Valley. Developers and agencies need to be conscious of how and where they plan energy projects all across the country. They need to look at renewable energy planning with a landscape-wide lens, understanding that building in the right places and making an effort to minimize environmental impacts from the start are essential. California’s Rim Fire: Opportunities Rise from the Ashes After California’s devastating Rim Fire, will officials take the opportunity to give nature a chance to fully recover?