Even though bald eagles primarily eat fish and dead animals, many people believed that they preyed on chickens and other domestic livestock. Many were shot needlessly.
In 1940, Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which prohibited the birds from being killed, however their population continued to decline because of a lack of nesting habitat. Bald eagles mate for life, and return to their nesting territory each year for the rest of their lives. They live near bodies of water— marshes, rivers and lakes— where they feed mostly on fish. Logging and development along waterways limited their nesting sites.
After World War II, DDT was a widely used pesticide against malaria-carrying mosquitoes and disease-carrying lice. Pesticides are chemicals used to kill or repel unwanted pests. Although it is estimated that many lives might have been saved by the use of DDT to kill dangerous pests, it was highly toxic to fish and other creatures.
Bald eagles and other birds ate DDT-contaminated fish. The DDT caused the eagles’ eggshells to become so brittle that the eggs broke during incubation. The population of our national bird, the bald eagle, declined to a dangerous low.
Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring brought the dangers of DDT to light. She wrote about how bird populations were suffering all across the country. Her book created an environmental movement that still goes on today. Lawsuits were filed in New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Washington DC to ban DDT. Scientific experts were gathered to testify and point out the dangers of the pesticide.
Ten years later all that hard work paid off. The pesticide was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency and the eagle population began to soar again.
On June 28, 2007, bald eagles were removed from the list of threatened and endangered species. Success!
Keeping Our Earth Green by Nancy Castaldo provides readers with over 100 hands-on ways to help save the Earth. Discover facts about pollution, global warming, biofuels, and much more. Try experiments at home or in a classroom. Read about the cool things being done to help our planet. Discover Earth Heroes – real people who have made a difference. Take action!
Jim Whiting has witnessed penguins in the wild, and tomorrow he is going to help you celebrate World Penguin Day by telling what their lives are really like.