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Bald is Beautiful
Few birds are as "cool" as the bald eagle. In July 1999, a controv ersial plan was announced to remove the bald eagle from the endangered species list in 2000.
Although there were once up to 100,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the United States, hunting and DDT pesticide reduced the number of pairs to just 417 in 1963. Thankfully, the efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other groups have resulted in an impressive recovery. There are now an estimated 5,758 nesting pairs in the continental United States.
While the eagle population began to decrease due to hunting in the 1800s, it was DDT that caused the greatest decline in numbers. Eagles ingested DDT by eating contaminated fish. The pesticide caused the shells of the eagle's eggs to thin and then break in the nest. Loss of habitat also contributed to the population decline and continues to limit the eagle's comeback.
Even after it has been removed from the endangered species list, bald eagles will still be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The MBTA prohibits the taking, killing, possession, transportation, and importation of migratory birds, their eggs, parts, and nests except when specifically authorized by the Department of the Interior.
Image courtesy of NOAA.