The bald eagle is celebrated through National American Eagle Day, which is on June 20 every year.
National American Eagle Day was launched by the American Eagle Foundation in Tennessee. The spread of the bird’s awareness and preservation has been passed on through the states.
The nation’s symbol, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, has been treasured since the 1700s. The species was seriously at risk of becoming extinct in the 1950s and was then classified as endangered in 1967. However, reproduction levels and reproduction and population levels have soared as a result from the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the bald eagle from the endangered species list in 2007. However, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, enacted in 1940, which states it is illegal to harm, disrupt or take possession of birds (dead or alive), feathers, nests (occupied or dormant) or eggs (whole or cracked), remains in effect.
With the opening of parks and recreational areas, it’s possible more people are going to be traveling to fish, hunt and practice shooting firearms.
Awareness of environmental safety has been implemented again, particularly in wildlife areas.
Susan Manning, from the Tri County Wildlife Center (TCWC) based in Jackson, said the importance of supporting the repopulation and protection of bald eagles is critical.
“The majority of eagles we get in have lead poisoning from unknown sources, but usually from fishing tackle and bullets,” Manning said. “The bullets are sometimes found in carrion.”
Bald eagles primarily eat fish, but sometimes, if fish is unavailable, the bird will feed off of smaller mammals or birds, jackrabbits, ducks and carrion.
The best thing to do when people have concerns about a bald eagle that is possibly sick or injured is to call the TCWC, Manning said.
It is not unusual for a baby eagle to be on the ground when first getting out of the nest, Manning said. The worst thing people can do is intervene by taking it away, because the parent still takes care of the chick.
To help the recovery, people should not intervene.
It is hard to tell if the species will return on the Endangered Species list again in the future, Manning said.
“We are fighting (against their return to the Endangered Species list). It takes time. We are seeing more of them that we have in the past, but if there continues to be lead contaminants in the future, they might go back on the list,” Manning said. “The best thing is to clean up after ourselves. Don’t leave tackle and fishing line out, and don’t use lead shots.”
Eagles have a lifespan of 30 years in captivity, and 15 to 25 years in the wild.
During adolescence, they will have brown bodies, including their head and tail. It’s not until they reach adulthood, typically around 4 to 5 years old, when the colors change to a white “bald” head and white tail.
Bald eagles are not bald at all. Their white feathered heads give them the appearance of baldness. Female bald eagles usually have 25% larger plumage of white feathers on the head than the males.
There is a small lake on the southwest side of Tahoe that has been home to a bald eagle for five years. It’s been seen perched from fallen trees, with eyes that scour the water for its meals.
“I was kayaking one time down the channel, and up above the bald eagle soared straight over me. It had a fish in its talons,” said Jed Davis, bird watcher and local cabin owner in Tahoe. “The water from the fish actually dripping onto my head, he was so close. It’s amazing the size of those talons, too.”
For more information, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at fws.gov, or call the Tri County Wildlife Care at 283-3245.