North Dakota Field Office
Mountain-Prairie Region

Endangered Species Act Success Story:

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

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bald eagle

(by US Fish & Wildlife Service)

One of the greatest success stories of the Endangered Species Act, the bald eagle, has made an amazing comeback from a low of about 400 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states in the early 1960s, to nearly 10,000 when the species was removed from the Endangered Species list in 2007.  The decline of the bird known as "America's symbol" was largely blamed on the pesticide DDT, which caused a thinning of its eggshells, as well as habitat destruction and illegal shooting.  Concerns about the bald eagle resulted in its protection in 1967 under the predecessor to the Endangered Species Act, and DDT was banned in 1972.  Those two steps started the species on the road to recovery, and the bald eagle was downlisted from "endangered" to "threatened" in 1995.

In 1988, the first bald eagle nest in North Dakota since 1975 was documented along the Missouri River.  At the time of delisting in 2007, at least 20 active bald eagle nests were located in various parts of the state.  Although no longer listed as an endangered or threatened species, the bald eagle remains protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibit "taking"--killing, selling, or otherwise harming eagles, their nests, or eggs.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to work with State wildlife agencies to monitor eagles.  Should it appear that the bald eagle again needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can propose to relist the species.

The remarkable recovery of the bald eagle is a testament to what can be accomplished when many parties work together for the common good.

Last updated: February 19, 2013