A remarkable comeback: With over 316,000 bald eagles soaring above U.S. states, America’s national symbol is finally regaining its strength.
It is one of America’s greatest conservational success stories. Clawing back from the brink of extinction, North America’s majestic bald eagle numbers have quadrupled since 2009, reports the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Wednesday.
The raptors, easily distinguishable as adults by their striking white head and neck, now flourish in the lower 48 states alongside Alaska. FWS’s numbers detail more than 71,400 nesting pairs and a brilliant 316,700 individual bald eagles.
“The strong return of this treasured bird reminds us of our nation’s shared resilience and the importance of being responsible stewards of our lands and waters that bind us together,″ announces Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Haaland’s term began just last week, making her the first Native American Cabinet secretary of the United States of America.
The bald eagle’s recovery is paramount to the Interior Secretary. In her speech, Haaland notes the species long-sacred nature to Native American tribes and the peoples of North America.
Resurgence of America’s Bald Eagle: How Did We Get Here?
Sadly, the bald eagle’s conservation in America will always be tainted by a deep failure to protect these birds. In 1963, only 417 known nesting pairs remained in the lower 48 states. Amidst this low, American conservationists kicked into overdrive, spurring decades of both federal and state regulations to protect bald eagles.
Chief among the legislation was the banning of DDT. For much of the 20th century, the deadly pesticide wreaked havoc on wildlife and ecosystems across the country. In addition, bald eagles were placed on the endangered species list in over 40 states. This would eventually lead to a strong comeback for the bird of prey, but only after decades of diligent wildlife management and protection.
As a result, the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list in 2007. This includes their status as non-threatened today.
In the years since, bald eagle numbers in America have thrived – quadrupling, even.
“71,400 nesting pairs and a brilliant 316,700 individual bald eagles”
Interior Secretary Haaland calls the bird’s masterful comeback a “success story (that) is a testament to the enduring importance of the work of the Interior Department scientists and conservationists. This work could not have been done without teams of people collecting and analyzing decades’ worth of science … accurately estimating the bald eagle population here in the United States,” the Associated Press cites.
Haaland also made sure to note the dire “importance of the Endangered Species Act, a vital tool in the efforts to protect America’s wildlife”. The act, which came into law in 1973, has been instrumental in keeping species like the bald eagle extant. Without this landmark legislation, baldies would have gone the way of the dodo.
Instead, the species now stands alongside American bison, the U.S.’s national mammal, as one of our country’s greatest success stories.
“One of the most remarkable conservation success stories of all time”
To this end, deputy director of FWS, Martha Williams, calls the bald eagle’s resurgence “one of the most remarkable conservation success stories of all time.”
Williams hopes every American citizen gets the chance to see these remarkable raptors in flight. “They’re magnificent to see.”
In order to reach her organization’s estimates, Williams and FWS biologists used aerial surveys in 2018 and 2019. Assisting their research was the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.
Wildlife conservationists still have a long road ahead, however. Interior Secretary Haaland’s department is currently reviewing actions by the Trump administration “to undermine key provisions” of the endangered species laws directly responsible for the bald eagle’s comeback.
“We will be taking a closer look at all of those revisions and considering what steps to take to ensure that all of us — states, Indian tribes, private landowners and federal agencies — have the tools we need to conserve America’s natural heritage and strengthen our economy,″ Haaland clarifies.
“We have an obligation to do so because future generations must also experience our beautiful outdoors, the way many of us have been blessed.”
For an ongoing look into the trials and tribulations of America’s bald eagle resurgence, be sure to follow the progress of California’s Big Bear nesting pair: Jackie & Shadow.