Bald eagles holding their own here

Ever since the dawn of recorded history, man has cherished the eagle as a symbol–of freedom, of strength, of fierce pride.
The Romans carried eagles of gold with them to war, and when the Americans sought a symbol for their country, the great white-headed eagle seemed made for the purpose.
With his snowy white head and tail, and his eight-foot wingspan, he is indeed an aristocratic looking bird.
The eagle has had a very serious decline in numbers in the past 25 years or so, which has been due to many causes, shooting being one. People mistakenly accused the bald eagle of predation of chickens and lambs, and thousands were shot and poisoned on these grounds alone.
The reduction of suitable habitat by the settlement of shore areas, and the cutting down of large trees, also played a role.
But the main loss of numbers was caused by the widespread use of insecticide, particularly the DDT types. This chemical makes the birds lay very thin-shelled eggs, which are usually broken in a matter of days.
The banning of DDT has produced some reversal in this downward trend.
The bald eagle builds its nest high in large trees. The same nest is used over and over again, with a foot or so of material added each year. Some nests eventually weigh nearly two tons!
The young eagles are all dark. They also are larger than their parents, and actually shrink a little when they mature. They don’t acquire the distinguishing white head and tail for nearly three years, and are not mature enough for breeding until they are about five years old.
Reproductive life comes slowly for these great birds.
Eagles nest near the water, and are fairly common around most of the lakes of Northern Ontario. Look for a huge nest near the top of a prominent pine tree or an island, or very near the shore. Eagles rarely make their nests more than a couple of hundred yards from the shore.
Eagles return to us early in the year. The Cree Indians called the month of March the eagle moon.
It may come as a surprise to some but our bald eagles are not on the endangered list. The one which is listed as endangered is the southern bald eagle, a somewhat smaller version, found in Florida and other southern states.
Our bird is listed as “threatened,” which is not quite so bad. In any case, everywhere in the United States, it is a federal offence to kill eagles, or even seriously disturb them.
When we look into the habits of this bald eagle, we find quite a few characteristics which are something less than noble. For one thing, he is usually a scavenger. He will eat any sort of carrion–dead fish, dead deer, wolf kills, and dead cattle.
He also is a pirate. The eagle continually persecutes his near relative, the Osprey, which is an excellent fish-catcher. The eagle threatens, chases, and attacks the Osprey until its releases the fish, which our hero retrieves for himself.
Not exactly the kingly bird we thought.
The bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, seems to be holding its own in Northern Ontario. Let us hope he can continue to thrive here.

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