My wife and I went on a short walk a few days ago on the Marsh Trail in Mount Pleasant, SC. We had a blast walking our dog, Bella, and seeing some wildlife in between rainstorms that were plaguing the Charleston area. The most interesting thing we saw was a mature adult Bald Eagle. We got a decent picture of it even though it was very far away and the weather wasn’t very good for picture taking.
The Bald Eagle (Haliaethetus leucocephalus) is always a crowd favorite on my naturalist trips mainly due to the fact that is is a symbol of our country. The scientific name Haliaeetus leucocephalus sea (Halo) eagle (aeetus) white (leukos) head (cephalos). They are raptors which mean they hunt with their feet (talons). They are opportunistic carnivores which can be seen feeding on a wide variety of meats, even scavenging dead ones. They will also bully other predators and steal their food. They Bald Eagle is one of very few birds that actually nest in every continental State and all the Providences in the US and Canada. They do mate for life and have the largest nests of any other bird species in North America (measuring in at over 1 ton). It actually takes 3-5 years for a juvenile bald eagle to mature to an adult, which means seeing the white head and tail delineates a bird at least 3 years of age.
These birds were on the brink of extinction a couple of decades ago. They are highly susceptible to pollution, especially the kinds that effect watersheds. DDT was an insecticide used from about World War I until the early 1970’s. This insecticide would get into the water and be stored in the aquatic organisms, mainly fish. Many large bird species took a hit during its use because once the bird species were exposed it would cause their eggshells to thin. This meant that the survival rate of chicks would plummet and with that the species numbers. Once DDT was outlawed, many of these birds have been on the rise, and the Bald Eagle is one of them. They were taken off the Endangered Species list in 1995 and then taken off the list of threatened and endangered species in 2007. This is a great success story for our national bird, they are trues survivors. I hope that we can continue our conservation of these birds so we can see them for years to come. In the mean time I will marvel over them more and more each time I see this majestic bird sitting on it perch or flying over my head.
For more info on the Bald Eagle go to www.baldeagleinfo.com