One thing I most enjoy about life on the Key Peninsula is the abundance of nesting bald eagles in Longbranch. There is not a day when you do not catch one these regal raptors fly by or perched high on a Madrona tree.
Their high-pitched calls are a beacon to where they may be feeding or that a flock of crows are on their tails. Eagles do sit at the top of the food chain says the website baldeagleinfo.com. They prefer fish but are opportunistic foragers and have been known to steal prey from other birds such as ospreys.
These birds do not have known predators. According to the website baldeagleinfo.com, the main cause of bald eagle deaths are “fatal gunshot wounds, electrocution, poisoning, collisions with vehicles, and starvation.”
I caught one of the birds on my commute this morning feasting on a dead possum along the Key Peninsula Highway. It is always jarring seeing one of these majestic birds in the ditch tearing up roadkill.
But let’s not get mired in talking trash about these beautiful birds. After all the bald eagle has been the emblem of the United States since 1782 — winning out over the objections of Benjamin Franklin who supported the wild turkey, according to the website livescience.com.
Bald eagles are a resilient species. They have come back from the brink of extinction. At the time of the bird’s adoption as a symbol of America in the 1700s, there were an estimated 25,000 to 75,000 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states, according to the website livescience.com.
By 1967 when the bird made it on the Endangered Species List, the website says there were only 417 nesting pairs in existence. The reason for their plummeting numbers was “due to habitat destruction, hunting and the use of the poison DDT (used to dust crops), which caused eagle shells to thin and often break before hatching.”
The use of DDT use was banned in 1972.
By 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had down-listed the bald eagles from endangered to threatened in most of the United States. In June 28, 2007, The Department of the Interior took the bird off the endangered species list.
A few facts about these regal birds:
— They nest for life.
— They can fly to an altitude of 10,000 feet, reaching speeds of up to 35 miles an hour.
— They can live as long as 30 years.
— They can lift up to 4 pounds.
The fact that matters most to me is that they are plentiful on our lovely peninsula.