A friend of mine created this fun video about the amazing recovery of the population of the bald eagle. You could say he’s a little shy so he’s wearing a bird suit. But he’s got an important message to share. I love seeing all the creative ways of telling the stories of conservation and making it relatable for everyone. I enjoyed it enough that I wanted to share it with everyone.
Due to DDT, habitat loss, and direct killing of eagles, by the 50s and 60s, eagles were noticeably scarce in North America. They were among the first bird species protected under the Endangered Species Act created in 1973. By 2007, they had recovered sufficiently to be removed from the endangered species list. On a personal note, I grew up in the Puget Sound, a paradise of water and land for eagles to live and breed. But as a child in the 70s and 80s, I rarely saw them despite being an avid bird watcher. Only 20 years later, though, while volunteering with Washington Fish & Wildlife’s eagle monitoring programs, there were so many that new nests were popping up adjacent to homes, in cities, and within a mile of neighboring territories in many cases.
I think that it’s worth mentioning that the recovery of bald eagles was not spontaneous. Nor was it only accomplished by just the “egghead set.” And it wasn’t any one thing that did it either. Indeed, it’s hard to list all the different programs that likely contributed and the countless volunteers (of all ages), biologists, veterinarians, and researchers that helped make it happen. During my career, much of it dedicated to helping eagles, I worked alongside some very interesting and amazing people.
There were concerned birdwatchers, supplying their keen observations and monitoring nests (in the days before online nest cams!). There were graduate students, such as Mark Stalmaster, carefully documenting disturbance pressures on wintering and nesting eagles. There were captive breeding programs, such as Dollywood or the efforts of the San Francisco Zoo and the Peregrine Fund. There were veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators caring for the sick and injured and documenting the anthropomorphic pressures to the birds (not to mention the many volunteers that fed and cleaned up after them in captivity). Government biologists monitored nests and enforced protections to give the birds a better chance at breeding successfully. Others attached tracking devices to follow their movements and identify important habitat to preserve. Pathologists documented their diseases including the connection between pesticides and decreased reproductive success. And many, many concerned citizens lent a hand or gave their money and materials to see it through.
I think it’s really important to remember that we all had a stake in it. And, as big as an accomplishment as the recovery of bald eagles and peregrine falcons has been, there are still greater conservation challenges to tackle now. I hope we can keep all coming together to resolve them.
Enjoy the video and please comment there and below!