Bald Eagle Population Quadruples in the Last 12 Years

Once nearly extinct, this bird has made a remarkable come-back.

Apr 27, 2021
Bald Eagle Population Quadruples in the Last 12 Years | Once nearly extinct, this bird has made a remarkable come-back.

Bald eagles soaring through the open skies are as American as apple pie. After all, it is the national symbol of the US. This majestic bird that was on the brink of becoming extinct has made a remarkable comeback and has quadrupled its population in the last dozen years to more than 316,000, according to National Public Radio.

There are now more than 70,000 breeding pairs according to a new US fish & Wildlife report while in the 1960s there were fewer than 500 making this an amazing turnaround. This is a “historic conservation success story,” the newly confirmed first Native American interior secretary Deb Haaland said in a news conference.

“The bald eagle has always been considered a sacred species to American Indian people, and similarly it's sacred to our nation as America's national symbol.”

The raptors were hunted, poisoned, and pushed out of their habitat in the contiguous 48 states for over 100 years. The most damage was caused by DDT, an insecticide that made its way into the food chain and caused the eagles’ eggs to become so fragile  that many didn’t survive incubation. DDT was banned in 1972.

Just one year later, when the endangered species act became a law, eagles were included on the list and were given special protections. Since then, the population of this raptor has been gradually recovering.

“The recovery of the bald eagle is one of the most well-known conservation success stories of all time,” said principal deputy director Martha Williams in a press release from the Fish & Wildlife Service.

“The Service continues to work with our partners in state and federal agencies, tribes, non-government organizations and with private landowners to ensure that our nation’s symbol continues to flourish.”

The federal agency was able to estimate the eagle population from aerial surveys over a two-year period in 2018 and 2019 and partnered with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to use eBird relative abundance data in areas where it was not practical to do flyovers. The data was later combined with information about survival rates and breeding rates to estimate the population.

“We're hoping that this will allow the service to track bald eagle populations over a much wider area in the most cost-effective manner in the future," said Viviana Ruiz-Gutierrez, assistant director of Cornell lab's center for avian population studies.”

Bald eagles are once again found from coast to coast from California where there is an active breeding program to Cape Cod, Massachusetts where the first nest was sighted in 2020 after an absence of 155  years. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife found 70 active eagles’ nests that year.

Conservation works when there is a partnership between grassroots groups, government action and legislation, and nature. Look up in the sky and you may catch a glimpse of this majestic bird soaring by.

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.