It looks like good news for this week's featured wildlife species, the Bald Eagle (Halieaeetus leucocephalus). This morning, the Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, flanked by an eagle named Challenger, held a news conference at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. to celebrate the comeback of the Bald Eagle. ``Ladies and gentlemen," said Kempthorne, "I'm proud to announce that the eagle has returned. . . .it is my honor to announce the Department of the Interior's decision to remove the American Bald Eagle from the Endangered Species List.''
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service there are now 10,000 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states. In 1963 when the Endangered Species Act was put into law, there were only 400. In Wildlife of the Mid-Atlantic, John H. Rappole writes, "populations were decimated by the effects of DDT and other pesticides on reproduction; however, pesticide controls and reintroduction programs have fostered recovery in many areas." Thanks to pesticide controls and reintroduction programs, lucky mid-Atlantic state bird watchers, especially those in northwestern Pennsylvania, still have the chance to see a Bald Eagle "sallying from perches or soaring over water and grasping prey."
The Bald Eagle's federal conservation status was upgraded from endangered to threatened in 1995. Now the bird is slated be removed from the national Endangered Species list altogether, however it will still be under federal protection through the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Wildlife of the Mid-Atlantic: A Complete Reference Manual is scheduled for release in mid July. John H. Rappole is a Research Scientist at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park's Conservation and Research Center. He is the author of twelve books, including Birds of the Mid-Atlantic Region and The Ecology of Migrant Birds.