Bald Eagle Journal

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Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

The Bald Eagle is a magnificent, awe-inspiring bird of prey. Found only in North America, they are one of the world's largest birds having a body size ranging from 28 to 38 inches, with a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet.

Belonging to the order of Sea Eagles, they are most often found near large bodies of water where they can feast on fresh fish. The adults set up territories, and each breeding pair will build a massive nest of sticks in the crotch of a large tree or on a cliff that will be used year after year. Bald Eagles mate for life and share the duties of incubating eggs, catching food and protecting their young. Pairs stay together throughout the year as near to their nesting territory as food availability and weather conditions will allow, but often they are forced to move south and will gather in large numbers to roost and feed by open water.

Before European settlers first sailed to American shores, bald eagles may have numbered half a million. By 1974 there were fewer than 1600 nesting eagles counted in the lower 48 states. The main culprit behind their decline was the pesticide DDT and persecution by farmers and ranchers who considered Bald Eagles a nuisance. Fortunately, DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1983 and populations began to recover. Approximately 10,000 nesting adults were counted in 2000. Once endangered in all 48 states, the Bald Eagle's status was upgraded to threatened in 1994.

Eagles have long been considered powerful omens. Pacific Coast tribes carved them into their totem poles as a symbol of strength, friendship and prestige. An eagle is perched on top of the Iroquois Tree of Peace to symbolize unity among the tribes of the united Indian nations. In 1782 this raptor was chosen as our national symbol. Bald Eagles are held by many people as sacred, an embodiment of the Divine. They are masters of the Sky-World who inspire our spirits to soar. For all that the Bald Eagle represents, the fact remains that they need a plentiful food source and a secluded nesting place to survive in the wild. As a nation who has honored the Bald Eagle as an emblem of freedom, can we give them the clean water and space that they need?

artwork by Steve Sierigk (c) 2001 

text by Kara Jean Hagedorn

Tags: birds,