In 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove the bald eagle from the endangered and threatened list due to its rebound. The Service has reopened the public comment period in order to solicit current information about bald eagle populations and trends.
The eagle was removed from the T&E list in June 2007. It will continue to be protected by the Bald Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Act. The Service has also developed draft voluntary guidelines to help landowners avoid impacts to eagles. Continue…
Bald Eagle page on the US Fish & Wildlife Service's
Endangered Species site.
Bald eagles usually nest in mature loblolly pines, tulip
poplars and oaks along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and rivers. Eagle
nests tower 80-110 feet above the ground. The massive nests are often used
year after year, growing to 6-8 feet in width and averaging 4 feet deep.
In late winter, bald eagles usually lay one to three eggs
which hatch after 35 days. The young are covered with soft down. Within
three months, however the young have grown feathers and are flying. By the
fourth month, they are on their own. Bald eagles feed primarily on fish,
but also eat ducks, geese, small mammals, rodents, snakes and
Historical records show that in the early 1900s several thousand pairs of birds nested around the Chesapeake Bay each year. However,
just prior to the 1940s, bald eagles began to decline due to the direct
killing of birds, loss of habitat and decline of prey. In 1940, the Bald
Eagle Protection Act made it illegal to kill, harm, harass or possess bald
eagles. Possession of dead eagles, their eggs or feathers also became
illegal. They began to recover but another culprit entered the picture.
Just before WWII the use of the pesticide DDT to control mosquitoes was widespread in coastal areas. Bald eagles fed on prey contaminated with the pesticide. By the late 1960s and early 70s, researchers found that DDE, a breakdown product of DDT, caused bald eagles and other birds to produce eggs with very thin shells. Chesapeake Bay area surveys of revealed a drop in eagle nests and eaglets produced. In the 1930s, an average of one to two eaglets were produced per nest, but by the 1960s that average dropped to one for every five active nests.
Use of DDT was banned in the United States in 1972, but
our Nation's symbol was still in trouble. By that time, there were fewer
than 90 breeding pairs of eagles in the Chesapeake area. In 1973, bald
eagles were listed as endangered throughout most of the lower 48 states,
including the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Since the DDT ban, more young eagles have hatched. Nesting
success has steadily increased each year. By 1996, 378 active bald eagle
nests in the Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania portions of the
Chesapeake Bay watershed produced 517 young!
During the past 25 years of recovery, eagles have made a
rebound in part due to the replacement of healthy adult nesting pairs.
Bald eagles have responded to the DDT ban and the protection afforded by
the Endangered Species Act , which includes preventing shootings and
protecting habitat through landowner agreements.
The Chesapeake Bay now has one of the highest
concentrations of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. In addition to the
breeding population, the Bay supports winter migrants from as far north as
Canada and summer migrants from Florida.
Through habitat protection, identification of
important nesting, roosting and feeding sites, and monitoring potential
contaminants, the current level of nesting bald eagles in the Chesapeake Bay can be sustained.