June 20th is designated as American Eagle Day in 49 out of the 50 United States, in honor of the day that the bald eagle was chosen as the country’s National Symbol in 1782. In addition, it serves as a day of awareness promoting the protection of the bald eagle as a species, and celebrates its recovery from the brink of extinction.
Prior to being banned in 1972, the pesticide DDT had a devastating effect on bald eagles and many other bird species, causing the shells of their eggs to be too thin to hatch healthy chicks. In the 1950s, there were believed to be fewer than 500 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the United States. Thanks to the banning of DDT and other protective measures, the most recent data available shows almost 9,800 nesting pairs. The species is now considered to be “Least Concern” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning it is no longer in imminent danger of extinction.
|Bald Eagle (Wings of the World collection)||Bald Eagle (Incredible Creatures Collection)|
Bald eagles, named for the striking white-feathered heads on adult birds that contrasts sharply with their mostly dark brown bodies, are found only in North America. They are birds of prey, also known as “raptors”, which are predatory birds that hunt and eat other animals. Eagles, along with hawks, vultures and falcons are known as “diurnal” birds of prey – that is, active during the daytime. Owls are nocturnal birds of prey, as they hunt at night.
|Harpy Eagle||Red-Tailed Hawk||Long-Eared Owl|
The bald eagle feeds mainly on fish, though they also eat other animals including birds and mammals. While they are known to hunt fish directly, they are not about scavenging on animals that have already died, and will occasionally swipe prey from other raptors. In some areas, reptiles such as turtles and snakes make up a large part of the eagle’s diet, as they are more common than similar-sized mammals. They may also sometimes eat crabs and frogs.
Bald eagles aren’t the largest birds in North America, but they’re definitely not small birds by any means. Their wingspan can reach 7 ½ feet, and they can weigh up to 14 pounds. While other birds may be larger, no bird in the world makes a larger nest. A nesting pair of birds will return to the same nest every breeding season, adding branches and other nesting material every year, to the point where the largest nests can be 20 feet deep and almost 10 feet wide!
These eagles are an important species, not only because they symbolize the United States of America, but also as one of the greatest comeback stories in recent animal history. Through dedicated conservation efforts, an animal has been brought back from the brink of extinction, with a population that’s on the rise as we speak. The bald eagle is an example of how we really can save threatened species and ensure they don’t disappear forever, if we’re willing to devote the effort and resources to the cause.
You can also find Bald Eagle figures in these exciting sets: