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National Eagle Day

Bald eagles are powerful birds of prey indigenous to America. They symbolize strength, determination, and honor. In ancient times — that is, even before the European conquest — bald eagles roamed the great blue skies, witnessing the rise and fall of empires.

On June 20, 1782, the Second Continental Congress selected bald eagles as the national symbol of the United States. Back then, they did not have any threats, either from land or from the skies. More than 100,000 nesting pairs were dominating the U.S. skies during that era. But the story changed for bald eagles in the 19th century.

Poisoning from pesticides, illegal shooting, habitat destruction, lead poisoning, birth defects, etc., resulted in a rapid decline of the eagle population. In 1940, Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which provided some protection for the birds. The law prohibited selling, owning, or killing bald eagles. But the population continued to decline, so much so that they were listed as endangered species by 1967. The main culprit was D.D.T., a pesticide used for eradicating mosquitoes and other pests. The chemical reached water bodies and fish on which bald eagles preyed. The D.D.T. interacted with the calcium secreting mechanism of the bald eagle and softened the eggshells. The result was soft eggs that failed to hatch or break under the weight of the incubating mother.