Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) by April Raver
As you are out driving one day, a bit of motion in the sky above catches your eye. A bird – soaring elegantly above! It’s beautiful white head and tail catching the sun as it glides along. It’s wing stretched out as if waving hello. You gasp. It’s a Bald Eagle! This scenario is becoming more and more common thanks to Bald Eagle reintroduction efforts in Indiana.
The Bald Eagle was named the national bird of the United States all the way back in 1782. It’s no surprise that it was chosen for the honor! Eagles were later placed on the endangered species list in 1967 after hunting and pesticides decimated their numbers. In 1973 they were moved to the threatened and endangered species list. But luckily the Bald Eagle has recovered under protection and was removed from the list on August 9, 2007!
Did you know that Bald Eagles don’t get their white heads until they are five years old? Keep your eyes open for juvenile eagles who are mostly brown! Males and females are identical in color but females are often larger than males! Eagles can live up to 38 years old in the wild. The wingspan of an eagle is anywhere from 6.5 to 7 feet! That’s huge! Body length is anywhere from 28 to 38 inches. During normal flight, Bald Eagles can fly up to 40 mph, but while catching prey they can dive at speeds over 100 mph!
It’s becoming easier and easier to see Bald Eagles in Indiana. Eagles nested in Indiana until the 1890s when there were no more eagle nests located in the state. Luckily, since 1979, surveys have shown a huge increase in the number of eagles nesting and wintering in Indiana. In 1985 the Indiana Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program started the Bald Eagle Reintroduction Program. From 1985 to 1989, 73 eaglets were obtained from Wisconsin and Alaska and brought to Indiana. Since then the numbers of Bald Eagles in Indiana has continued to grow. In 2016, there were an estimated 300 nesting pairs of eagles in the state!
Spend some time in the next few months watching these beautiful birds! While you watch them soar above our skies, take time to remember their story… how they were almost all destroyed at one point, but with thanks to federal programs they have been reintroduced in amazing numbers today! Keep your eyes open and soon you, too, will get a chance to gasp at the beauty of a Bald Eagle soaring above!