Facts about the Great Bald Eagle
- Bald eagles were named not because it was bald, but for their distinctive pure white head, neck and tail. In fact, its scientific name - Haliaeetus leucocephalus - is Latin for "white headed sea eagle."
- These birds are big - averaging between 27 to 35 inches tall with a 71-90- inch wingspan; females are slightly larger than their male counterparts.
- Bald eagles tend to nest near lakes, rivers and other waterways on the tops of tall trees.
- Before the recovery program began in 1985, these majestic birds had not nested in Indiana since 1897.
- The bald eagles' eyesight is quite impressive; they have eight times more resolving power than humans and can locate prey up to two miles away.
- Though their keen eyesight is key to finding prey, it is their razor sharp, hook-like talons that capture and kill their meal.
- Bald eagles are unique to North America. All U.S. states except Hawaii are home to these great birds and Alaska is the only one that has never had them listed as endangered or threatened.
As recently as twenty years ago the Bald Eagle was dangerously close to becoming extinct throughout the lower 48 states - Indiana included. Today, they're back from the brink and doing better than ever.
Return of the Bald Eagles
In 1782, the Bald Eagle was named our national symbol as it represented strength, courage and freedom. Today it can easily be considered a symbol of survival. In June 2007, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services removed the bald eagle from the endangered species list more than sixty years after it was first protected by federal law.
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Habitat loss, over-hunting and the now banned pesticide DDT were largely to blame for the eagles rapidly declining numbers between 1870 and 1970. In Indiana, bald eagles were expatriated by 1900 due to the loss of wetland habitats. As breeding pairs continued to decrease in size throughout the country, it was apparent that something had to be done.
Indiana’s efforts to restore the bald eagle began in 1985. Seventy three young bald eagles were reintroduced at Lake Monroe in the span of four years. These eagles formed a core population in south-central Indiana that has grown significantly since then. The first successful bald eagle nest in Indiana was documented in 1991. By 2004, the federal recovery goal for Indiana for five nesting pairs was achieved. Today, one hundred pairs have been documented. This robust trend upward gave us good reason to remove the bald eagle from the state’s endangered species list in 2007 which was encouraged by its removal from the federal endangered species list a year prior.
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Though the bald eagle will remain a species of special concern - meaning monitoring and management will continue, though at a lesser degree - the removal of the iconic bird from our endangered species list is a great victory for all Hoosiers. A big thanks is in order for the hard work DNR and its partners did to have the bald eagle back nesting and raising its young along Indiana lakes, rivers and waterways once again. You can catch a glimpse of these maginificent birds up close and personal when you explore or volunteer at one of our Southern Indiana preserves. Contact our Brown County Hills office for opportunities. A few other popular preserves for Bald Eagles are Mossy Point, Beanblossom Bottoms, and Black Rock Barrens.
It Began with One
Indiana's residential eagle may be flightless, but that hasn't stopped him from helping others soar. C-52, a rescued bald eagle, is considered a symbol of Indiana's successful bald eagle reintroduction program.
5 things you may not know about me
- I'm a big fan of reuse - I reuse the same nest year after year, adding on when I feel the need for fancier digs. My home can get pretty big , too - just like me. Some of my larger nests have been known to weigh up to 4,000 pounds!
- I might be called "bald" erroneously (I have plenty of feathers up there), but I don't get my distinctive white display until I'm 4-5 years old. However, I will have them for a while...I can live up to 30 years in the wild, and 50 in captivity. Good thing it's a style that can withstand the tests of time!
- Good thing I have a head for heights - when flying, I can attain an altitude of 10,000 feet, and can dive at a speed of 30-35 miles per hour. In normal flight, I fly between 20-60 miles per hour.
- I work well with my mate: not only do we mate for life, but we also share the duties of incubating and caring for eggs.
- I almost wasn't the national symbol of the United States of America, thanks in part to Benajmin Franklin - he was convinced my moral character was inferior to some other birds (he favored the wild turkey), and that I would be a poor representative of our new country. And all because I might scavenge once in a while. Talk about a gastronomical critic!
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