Return to the Wild - Evolving perspectives on Canadian wildlife
Bald eagles have a wide range throughout North America.

Did you know?

The bald eagle uses the same nest throughout its life, adding more twigs and branches each year, and so has the largest nest of all birds in North America. The biggest nest on record was three metres across and six metres tall.

Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Average weight: 2.7 kg–4 kg (male)
4.5 kg–6.8 kg (female)
Average height: 76 cm–86 cm (male)
89 cm–94 cm (female)
Average wingspan: 200-225 cm
Average lifespan: 25–40 years
A bald eagle in flight with a fish in its grip.

Canadian Geographic articles

Eagles across the border!

By William H. Metcalfe
October/November 1987

Long the symbol of freedom in North America, the bald eagle once faced almost insurmountable odds to its survival.

A victim of the pesticide DDT, the eagles were almost gone from the United States by the time the harmful chemical was banned in the early 1970s. Luckily for the birds and worried conservationists, a diplomatic gift  — two eaglets from the chancellor of West Germany — sparked an idea to save the U.S. eagle population. Because live birds were not allowed to be imported into the country, President Ronald Reagan had to find a legal loophole to accept the gift, and find one he did. It is this loophole that is partly responsible for the restoration of the bald eagle in the U.S.

Conservationists immediately recognized they could use the same trick to import eagles from Canada, where the eagles were faring far better. So an international partnership was established between the two countries: the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Nova Scotia allowed biologists to come into the provinces and take up to 10 six-week old chicks from nests that had hatched two young birds. Each of these provinces had a very high number of bald eagles, so the loss of a few chicks posed no threat to the native population.

A few Canadians were key to this process, chief among them a retired Bank of Montreal employee, Charles Broley, and a pediatrician, Dr. Jon Gerrard. Both men were ardent lovers of the bald eagle, having conducted independent counts of the birds and banding them for research purposes. Broley was one of the first to identify DDT as the chemical responsible for the decline of the eagles, but died before he could see the reintroduction of the bald eagle to the United States. Dr. Gerrard had published a book on the bald eagle and was key to connecting the American conservationists with the right people in Manitoba, the first province to undertake the project.

Un-endangered eagles

By Alyssa Julie
November/December 2007

After years of diligent work, conservationists were happy to see that the bald eagle was no longer protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2007. The bird’s unprotected status means that there are enough birds in the country to reproduce and live without the assistance of humans.

Unfortunately, the new status of the bald eagle also presents a new problem. The prime nesting sites for bald eagles often lie along coastal areas or near bodies of water, which are also prime real estate. Because the eagles are no longer protected, it makes it easier for developers to build in this prime habitat without legal ramifications.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now faces the daunting task of tracking the bald eagle population for five years — if they feel there is a need to protect the birds again, they can make a request to have the eagles’ endangered status reinstated.

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