The Great Journey in Photography

God and Country

American Bald Eagle

300mm f6.3 200iso 1/180sec

As we linger through one of the United States most respected holidays, our Independence day, many Americans celebrate with BBQ’s and fireworks. Part of the holiday is our most coveted symbol of freedom the Bald Eagle. Long before there even was a United States, Native Americans honored this bird in many of their spiritual customs. Considered a messenger between God and humans many tribes used the Eagle’s claws and feathers for traditional ceremonies. Our founding fathers adopted the bird as a national symbol not because of their Native American brothers but rather because they so admired the old Roman Republic which used eagle images frequently. Today, the Bald Eagle appears on numerous government seals and coinage.

The majestic bird has had tough times in our more recent history. It is thought that these Eagles numbered as high as 500,000 until the early 1950’s. During the ’50’s the population declined dramatically until only a little more than 400 nesting pairs were detectable. The main culprit of the dwindling population was found to be the presence of the pesticide DDT. While it did not kill or negatively affect the function of adult birds it was proven that the pesticide made the Eagles lay eggs that were thin shelled and could not survive the rigors of incubation. In addition to this the Bald Eagles were hunted at will and also subject to other toxins like lead and mercury. In 1967 the eagle was declared an endangered species. In 1972 DDT was banned in the US and later Canada. The population soon began to increase and in 1992 there were an estimated 110,000 individuals. Alaska being the most popular area with almost half the Eagles residing there. In 1995 the Bald Eagle was lowered from the endangered species list to “threatened” and in 2007 it was again lowered to the rating of “least concern”.

Bald Eagles also sometimes refered to as a Sea Eagle can be found almost anywhere in the United States, Canada, and Northern Mexico but do tend to live around large bodies of water and generally summer in the north and winter in the south. They are classified as a “bird of prey” or “Raptor”. The terms bird of prey and raptor are rather loosely defined but is commonly considered to be meat eaters that use talons and sharp beaks to capture and devoured their prey.They soar on thermal drafts in search of their next meal. Bald eagles, as most already know, are not bald at any point in their lives. Bald refers to an old term meaning “white-headed”. Eagles do not swim like many other birds. When fishing the bald eagle simply glides above the water until it reaches the fish, reaches into the water with its talons only, grabs the fish and swoops away to safety.

Bald Eagles generally mate for life, but death and infertility can lead to seeking a new mate.

You can see more Bald Eagle images at www.ronboyddesign.com

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