Bald eagles making population rebound

Read the original article by Mark Rountree at here.

Once threatened with extinction, the bald eagle is making a comeback.

And the month of January is considered to be a prime time to see America’s national bird in the midwest.

Eagle Days will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Paradise Pointe Golf Course Complex in Little Platte Park in Smithville, Missouri.

The event is a production of the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A viewing station with spotting scopes will be set up to look at bald eagles.

The 23rd annual Kaw Valley Eagles Day will be held Jan. 19 at Billy Mills Middle School in Lawrence.

The free family event will include arts and crafts, information booths, presentations, live displays, a hike through the wetlands and eagle-viewing opportunities.

Mike Rader, wildlife education supervisor for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said bald eagles migrate from the north to the Midwest each year, typically in December and January.

“They follow the waterfowl migrations and look for abundant food sources around open water,” Rader said.

Andy Friesen, biologist with the KDWPT, said there are numerous locations where people can see bald eagles, typically in areas around open water such as rivers, lakes, reservoirs and marshes.

“You can see them year-round,” said Friesen. “They are more prevalent than people think. But this is a good time to see them.”

Bald eagles are large, brown birds distinguished by white feathers on their heads. They can weigh as much as 15 pounds and have a wingspan of about eight feet.

Rader said that in the late 18th century, there were an estimated 100,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the United States when the country adopted the bald eagle as its national bird.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the bald eagle was in danger of extinction 40 years ago due to illegal shooting and contamination of its food source as a consequence of pesticides on crops.

Rader said fewer than 500 nesting pairs of bald eagles were in the U.S. by the early 1960s.

But efforts soon got underway to remedy the problem.

“Habitat protection provided by the Endangered Species Act, the federal government’s banning of DDT and conservation actions taken by the American public have helped bald eagles make a remarkable recovery,” according to the USFWS.

Based on the most recent population figures by the USFWS, there are now approximately 10,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the contiguous United States.

“Bald eagles have staged a remarkable population rebound and have recovered to the point that they no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act,” according to the USFWS.

Wildlife biologist Mike Watkins said as many as 3,000 bald eagles now can be seen in the state of Kansas during the winter months.

“It’s an extremely inspiring story to think that the bird was on the endangered species list and they have rebounded well because of the positive things man has done,” Watkins told the Lawrence Journal-World. “It’s a pretty significant achievement to get a population to rebound.”

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