BY CHRISSY HARTIG
In 1782, the bald eagle was chosen as the emblem of the United States. Also serving as our national bird, bald eagles are a representation of the natural beauty of our country. An exceptional bird to catch sight of, bald eagles are easy to identify due to their white heads. They get their name from an old English word, “balde,” meaning white. Female bald eagles are larger than males, and their bodies can be three feet long with a wingspan of eight feet across. Their majestic looks are not the only feature that bald eagles are admired for – they are also incredibly strong and skillful predators.
Bald eagles are known to soar over 10,000 feet high and have great eyesight that allows them to see fish up to one mile away. They have a very calculated attack that involves dropping out of the sky at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour. As they approach the water, they glide over the surface, snag a fish with their large talons, and fly off to eat it, returning home to their nests called aeries (AIR-ees), which are built at the top of tall trees where their eggs safely rest.
Starting in the 1950s, bald eagle numbers began to decline because of widespread use of pesticides like DDT. In fact, from 1961 to 1987 there were no bald eagles produced in Metropolitan Detroit due primarily to pesticide contamination. Recognizing that bald eagle populations were in peril, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed it on the endangered species list in 1967.
Since 1991, there has been a steady increase in the number of occupied bald eagle nests per year in metropolitan Detroit. From 2012-2015, at least 25 active nests have been documented each year, resulting in the fledgling of 28 or more young per year.
In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the bald eagle from the endangered species list because their populations recovered sufficiently across the United States. The most recent survey data from 2015 shows that there were 14 occupied nests in Monroe County and six occupied nests in Wayne County that produced a total of 21 eaglets. They even nest in Trenton on Humbug Island.
Take a look around the next time you are driving along the Detroit River — you might just see our great national symbol.