Be Your Own Birder

National Save the Eagles Day

Eagles are magnificent, and are often the subject of conservation campaigns because they are such powerful predators yet are so vulnerable to different threats. Yet these birds are most often associated with a particular July holiday (for passionately patriotic birders in the United States), rather than early January. But January 10 is actually National Save the Eagles Day!

Bald Eagle - Photo by Erick Houli
Bald Eagle – Photo by Erick Houli

Why January 10?

Mid-winter is nesting season for bald eagles, when they are seeking out the best nesting sites or returning to the same nests they’ve used for generations. During mid- to late winter, these raptors incubate their eggs, which will hatch just over a month after being laid. It was one particular bald eagle’s nest that spawned National Save the Eagles Day in the village of Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, in 2015.

Late in 2014, Skymark Development Corporation highlighted a study arguing that a landfill near an eagles’ nest posed community health risks. The nesting pair, fondly named Alice and Al, had nested along Overpeck Creek since at least 2011. Part of the solution to the local health risks was to remove the tree the eagles nested in. When that solution was made public, the community and the Bergen County Audubon Society organized Save the Eagles Day on January 10, 2015. 

Eventually, an agreement was reached to preserve part of the land as an eagle park. For several years, Alice and Al continued to nest in the same location, and eventually a new eagle pair took up residence in the same nest (as is common with raptors when one mate dies or opts to nest elsewhere). To this day, the eagles’ nest is still celebrated with local “Return of the Eagles” events to raise awareness not only of local bald eagles, but of the comeback of all bald eagles and to support the Endangered Species Act.

Which Eagles to Save?

National Save the Eagles Day has grown far beyond one nest for one eagle species. There are more than 60 eagle species throughout the world, the greatest variety of which are found in Asia and Africa. Far too many of these noble birds, however, are classified as vulnerable, threatened, or outright endangered. Nearly half the eagle species on the planet face grave survival risks. This day, in every country and for every eagle species, can be an amazing opportunity to highlight the risks eagles face and to help support conservation efforts to protect them.

Black-Chested Snake-Eagle - Photo by Derek Keats
Black-Chested Snake-Eagle – Photo by Derek Keats

Threats to Eagles

But what hazards could threaten such powerful apex predators? While these birds are seen as strong and dominating, they can actually be quite delicate and vulnerable to a wide range of threats, including:

  • Poisoning from pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic chemicals
  • Contamination from lead shot left in kill entrails that eagles may eat
  • Collisions with power lines, wind turbines, and other obstacles
  • Poaching and shooting, whether accidental or deliberate
  • Habitat loss through development, climate change, or agriculture
  • Persecution if eagles are believed to be threatening livestock

Because these large raptors require large territories and do not raise huge families – one eagle may only have 2-3 chicks each year, and mortality among chicks is naturally high – even seemingly insignificant threats can do great damage to an eagle population. All too quickly, one threat – a new development that removes nesting trees, puts up new power lines, and introduces rodenticides to an area – could have devastating consequences for local eagles.

Help Save Eagles Every Day

Fortunately, we can all take easy steps in different ways to help not only bald eagles, but all types of eagle populations.

  • Conserve ElectricityReducing our use of electricity helps reduce the need for new power plants, extra power lines, additional power poles, and other developments that can impact eagles and other raptors. Turn off lights and be mindful of your energy use.
  • Hunt Responsibly – If you hunt or fish, practice raptor-friendly techniques by choosing copper rather than lead ammunition, cleaning up gut piles, and ensuring there is no environmental contamination from your activities. Encourage others to do the same.
  • Protect Habitat – Support local nature preserves, wildlife refuges, and other habitat areas to help keep space available for eagles and hundreds of other birds. You can do this through donations, volunteering, supporting protective legislation, and other means.
  • Enjoy Eagles – Participating in eagle-oriented events such as nature walks, viewing days, photography contests, and more will raise awareness of these stunning birds and their needs in our ever-changing environment. The more people who know about eagles and their vulnerabilities, the more help will be available to preserve them.

With simple steps, we can enjoy many eagle-oriented holidays in years to come, with more of these majestic birds to see no matter which eagles we spot or where we see them.

Wedge-Tailed Eagle - Photo by Ron Knight
Wedge-Tailed Eagle – Photo by Ron Knight

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