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Bald Eagle Populations Quadruple After Brink of Extinction

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There are more than 70,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the United States, up from an all-time low of 417 in 1963. (Rex Wholster/Adobe Stock)
There are more than 70,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the United States, up from an all-time low of 417 in 1963. (Rex Wholster/Adobe Stock)
 By Lily Bohlke - Producer, Contact
March 29, 2021

CONCORD, N.H. -- Bald eagle populations have quadrupled in the last decade, after nearing the brink of extinction.

A new report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds there are now more than 315,000 bald eagles in the lower 48 states, including more than 70,000 nesting pairs after years of conservation efforts and protections, plus a ban on the pesticide DDT.

John Kanter, senior wildlife biologist for the National Wildlife Federation, said the current numbers have exceeded biologists' expectations after bald eagles reached their all-time low of just over 400 nesting pairs in 1963.

"The thought now that there are many pairs nesting in the state, it's just, it's absolutely incredible," Kanter remarked. "I see eagles all the time. That's a recent phenomenon. "

Bald eagles received federal protections under the Endangered Species Act from 1973 until 2007.

Kanter said eagle conservation efforts in New Hampshire have ranged from protecting habitats to wrapping sheet metal around the base of nest trees so that raccoons or other climbing predators can't get up.

To avoid a future decline in eagle populations, Kanter pointed out it's key to keep monitoring them, and to be diligent in preventing birds from ingesting harmful chemicals.

He noted lead weights on fishing lines are prohibited in New Hampshire but not everywhere.

"Birds like eagles and other fish eaters die from ingesting that lead," Kanter explained. "And there's an easy practice that people can take right there to clean out the tackle box and switch to the nontoxic alternatives which are widely available."

But while bald eagle populations are on the upswing, research shows other American bird populations are decreasing. Nearly three billion birds have been lost in the last 50 years.

Kanter said his group hopes to see legislation such as the Recovering America's Wildlife Act come back this session. It would help protect species before they're on the brink of extinction.

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species and Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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