As our national emblem, their majestic presence symbolizes unlimited freedom as they sweep through valleys and soar up into boundless heights.
Not only are they prevalent on American coins and seals, but they are increasingly growing rampant in American skies. Bald eagles are making a comeback, especially in the Ohio region.
About three years ago, Bill Hoggard, a student birdwatcher, spotted some bald eagles at a state forest located in central Ohio.
“About three years ago, I was going down Brush Creek and saw six bald eagles along with three nests,” Hoggard said.
According to Erin Gray, a zookeeper at the Cincinnati Zoo, bald eagle sightings have been increasingly more common over the past few years. She has been working at the Cincinnati Zoo since 2008 and throughout the time she has been working there at least 30 more eagles have been banded.
According to David Russell, a Miami University lecturer and bird bander, bird banding is a way of keeping track of birds.
“Banding is when you basically assign a social security number to birds,” Russell said.
The eagles have a lightweight band with a nine-digit code. Every individual eagle is assigned a specific number so the banders can take data associated with them. Because of bird banding, bird experts can take measures to help the birds prevail.
“They are off the endangered list,” Gray said.
According to Gray, bald eagles have been off this list for quite some time.
Eagles can be found in small concentrations throughout the United States, particularly near bodies of water. In Ohio, the bald eagle is most widespread in the marsh region of western Lake Erie.
“Ohio is the perfect area because there are a lot of valleys and a lot of water,” Gray said.
According to Gray, marsh bodies of water are perfect for eagles to care for their young.
In fact, there is a bald eagle that can be spotted within close proximity to Oxford. According to Russell, bald eagles nest at Brookville Lake, located about 30 miles northwest of Cincinnati.
“There is at least one nest at Brookville,” Russell said.
This nest includes a female that banders track.
In 2006, her nest collapsed during a storm. With the help of Russell and other bird experts, an artificial nest was built so the eagle could survive.
“Right now, she’s sitting on eggs,” Russell said.
Russell said in the 1970s, this might not have been so common.
“(Around) 30 years ago, we had a lot of DDT, organic chlorines and insecticides,” Russell said.
According to Russell, these chemicals have long residual effects and the chemicals began to accumulate in the environment, affecting wildlife.
As a result of their accumulation, small insects would begin to consume these chemicals and would be passed up the food chain. Ultimately, the chemicals in the environment affected the organisms at the top of the food chain, such as bald eagles.
In essence, when smaller organisms get eaten by something else, the predator acquires all the pray had acquired. Because bald eagles were consuming hazardous chemicals, it significantly affected their breeding.
“One of the first symptoms was that it would affect the pathway that would allow calcium to be put on the eggs,” Russell said.
When a female would go to lay an egg, it would crush. Therefore, when the adults died out, there were no more youngsters coming through and, as a result, bald eagles were suddenly becoming extinct.
“When you reached the maximum life expectancy, suddenly they were gone,” Rusell said.
This is no longer the case. Bald eagle populations are significantly increasing.
According to Gray, people should keep their eye out for bald eagles because they are more common than one may think.
“A lot of people might see immature bald eagles and not even realize it because they look so similar to golden eagles,” Gray said.