Happy National American Eagle Day and Fledge Fundraiser! Feel welcome to share your favorite memories and captures from our Decorah and Decorah North nests below! Today is a special day to commemorate the anniversary of the Bald Eagle’s selection as our National Symbol, to celebrate its physical recovery to America’s skies, and to observe the American values, ideals and attributes for which it stands.
Why did the Bald Eagle nearly become extinct? It’s a long story. Bald eagles were America’s national emblem, but many people reviled them as predatory ‘trash’ birds: a danger to livestock and possibly humans. Before the Bald Eagle Act was passed in 1940, bald eagles and other raptors were commonly shot – completely legally – and some states had bounties on them prior to the passage of the Act. It is hard to believe how different attitudes were towards birds of prey in the first part of the twentieth century.
The Bald Eagle Act (expanded to include Golden Eagles in 1962) protected Bald Eagles from persecution, but not from habitat loss, pollution, or DDT. DDT was a commonly used agricultural pesticide that caused eggshells to become so thin that embryonic birds were crushed by the weight of incubating adults. Following public outcry and the actions of heroes like Rachel Carson, the federal government banned DDT in the United States in 1972 and passed laws like the endangered species act (1973), the clean air act (1963), and the clean water act (1972). People wanted air they could breathe, rivers that didn’t catch fire, and springs filled with the sights and sounds of wildlife. Amid a time of burgeoning environmental consciousness, environmental laws and regulations provided states with the laws, funding, and resources they needed to recover species at the brink of extinction and protect wildlife and wildlands.
Some endangered species (like the peregrine falcon) were returned through captive breeding programs, but eagles more-or-less returned themselves after DDT and persecution were banned and nests and habitat were protected. After about 1972, DDT, which caused eggshell thinning, couldn’t be used in the United States. Bald eagle nests couldn’t be removed and bald eagles couldn’t be shot. Free of persecution, habitat loss, and DDT, the bald eagle population in the United States grew rapidly. People loved seeing their beautiful national emblem in real life! Eagle watches quickly became a powerful draw at winter eagle congregation spots and people were thrilled to discover bald eagles and bald eagle nests in their neighborhoods!
Thanks to protective laws, hard work, and a huge change in attitudes, bald eagles were removed from the federal endangered species list in 2007. American Eagle Day reminds us that we can make a difference when we act to protect America the beautiful: our wildlife, our wild land, our gracious skies, and our shining waters. Thank you for all you do for the wildlife and wild lands that you love!
If you’d like to learn more about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which was passed in 1918, follow this link: https://raptorresource.blogspot.com/2016/08/celebrating-centennial-100-years-of.html. Iowa is not only home to the Decorah and Decorah North Eagles, it is also home to Congressman John Lacey. He authored the very first legislation to protect wildlife in 1900! #Iowa