And now for some good news: The number of active bald eagle nests documented in Nebraska last year reached a record 118.
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission officials say there probably are more, but some nests along the Missouri River in northeast Nebraska couldn’t be surveyed. The actual number could top 125, says the commission’s Joel Jorgensen.
When America adopted the bald eagle as the national symbol in 1782, the country may have had as many as 100,000 nesting eagles, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says. Loss of habitat, shooting and use of the pesticide DDT, which contaminated the eagles’ food source, slashed those numbers.
By 1963, only 487 nesting pairs remained.
Determined efforts, including habitat protection, banning DDT and conservation actions by the public, helped the eagles rebound. Recovery was so robust that in 2007, the bird was removed from the list of threatened and endangered species.
That’s the story in Nebraska and Iowa, The World-Herald’s David Hendee recently reported. In less than a quarter-century, bald eagles have gone from a nonexistent breeding species in Nebraska to one that’s relatively numerous. In Iowa, more than 222 active nests have been recorded.
Few sights can match a magnificent bald eagle as it swoops, soars and dives, its aerial acrobatics silhouetted against a winter sky. This comeback is heartening.