Conservation Success Story – Bald Eagles

One of the most important dates in April to conservation and environmental education organizations is of course Earth Day.  Earth Day started in 1970 to provide a voice to emerging environmental concerns.  At that time, there was lead in gasoline, little or no pollution controls on industry and a history of oil spills into our rivers and seas with little or no consequences.  Modeled after the student anti-war protests of the late sixties and originally envisioned as a series of campus “teach-ins” the effort soon broadened to include a wide range of organizations, faith groups, and others.  They changed the name to Earth Day, which immediately sparked national media attention, and caught on across the country.  Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans — at the time, 10% of the total population of the United States — to take to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development which had left a growing legacy of serious human health impacts. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment and there were massive coast-to-coast rallies in cities, towns, and communities.  Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders. By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of other first of their kind environmental laws, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act.  Two years later Congress passed the Clean Water Act. 

One of the great success stories of this environmental awakening has been the rebound of bald eagle populations.  Once considered endangered, primarily as a result of the use of DDT which weakened the shells of their eggs, there are now so many bald eagle nests in Pennsylvania that the Game Commission can’t count them all! From only 3 nesting pairs in 1983 there were 300 in 2019 and their status has shifted from endangered to low concern!  The public can help in the effort to monitor these magnificent birds using the Game Commission’s on-line tool: Bald Eagle Nest Survey (pa.gov) Now that these wonderful birds are becoming more common in our skies, especially near bodies of water like the Delaware, it might be helpful to learn a bit about how to identify them.  I imagine that’s a little surprising to some, but those sparkling white head and tail feathers don’t appear on these birds until they’re about 5 years old.  Here’s a graphic to help:

Other helpful identification tips can be found at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website:

Bald Eagle Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

And if you want to check in on bald eagle family life you can visit the Hanover PA eagle cam and watch Liberty, Freedom and this year’s eaglet Patience here:

Live Streaming Bald Eagle Nest Cam Hanover, PA | HDOnTap.com

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