THE BALD EAGLE - SYMBOL OF FREEDOM
by Weldon Lee
The bald eagle - symbol of freedom, strength, and power - was adopted as the United States’ national emblem in 1782.
Unfortunately, that did not guaranteed protection of this magnificent bird. Several factors contributed to plummeting Bald Eagle populations in the 1900s.
For instance, the paying of bounties for dead eagles did not end until 1962. In Alaska, a pair of eagle feet brought two dollars. Compounding the problem was the use of DDT to control crop pests. Where the bounty hunters had failed, this dreadful pesticide almost succeeded.
Fortunately, these issues are behind us and Bald Eagles are making a comeback.
Today, the bald eagle ranges throughout most of North America.
Favored habitats are typically near large rivers, lakes, or the sea coast.
Nests are usually placed in the fork of a prominent, tall tree adjacent to an open area. It is a conspicuous, massive structure of sticks and branches.
Both male and female are involved with the construction.
Used annually, and added to each season, the nest may attain a height of 5 or 6 feet, be 9 or 10 feet in diameter, and weigh upwards of 2,000 pounds.
In the Rockies. two bluish-white eggs are laid sometime between February and April. In other areas, Florida for example, nesting may occur as early as November.
Both parents share incubation - 34 to 36 days - and rearing of the offspring.
Fledging occurs when the young are between two and three months old.
Young eagles face many dangers. Mortality is high. The pair will be fortunate if only two or three of their offspring reach maturity.
Full adult plumage - white head and tail feathers - is not attained until age four or five. Breeding and egg laying usually begins at this time and continues until their death at age nine or ten. Captive birds, however, have been known to live to the ripe old age of forty.