American Eagle Foundation
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Eagle Recovery Efforts

Recovery Regions

Recovery RegionsThis map illustrates the five bald eagle recovery regions designated by the Fish & Wildlife Service in the mid-1970s. Each color represents a separate region. Each of the five regions was responsible for working with species experts to develop a feasible recovery plan for restoring bald eagle populations to the region.

Although the five regions have met their initial recovery goals, experts say that bald eagle populations will need continued management, conservation, and close monitoring for several years.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has compiled a report entitled "How Many Bald Eagles Are There?" In this report, you can see a population map, a population chart, and numbers of breeding pairs by state (from 1990 - 2006)."


Methods of Recovery
Bald eagle recovery methods can be divided into three types: egg, juvenile, and adult. Bald eagle egg recovery methods include egg recycling or egg borrowing, and egg fostering. The juvenile bald eagle recovery methods are called foster parenting and hacking. The primary adult recovery method is rehabilitation.

Egg borrowing refers to the practice of taking eggs from bald eagle nests in areas where eagles are relatively plentiful and transporting them to another site for hatching and eventual hacking. The eggs are recycled because if the first clutch of eggs is borrowed at the beginning of the breeding season, the nesting bald eagles quickly lay another clutch. The borrowed eggs may be incubated by machine, hen, or foster parent eagles in the wild or in captivity. If they are raised in captivity, this process is called captive breeding.

In egg fostering, bald eagle eggs are taken from a nest in the wild or from captive birds unable to raise their young, and are incubated by bald eagle parents who have recently lost an egg or who have suffered from longterm infertility.

These processes help recover the bald eagle by encouraging greater reproductive capacity (egg recycling) and by repopulating areas where bald eagles have become scarce.

Foster parenting involves transfer of eaglets into the nests of unsuccessfully incubating adult eagles.  Eaglets of up to approximately four weeks age (preferably about two weeks old) may be transferred into other nests that have infertile eggs, or even where artificial eggs have been placed in the nest.  The “incubating” adult bald eagles will then act as foster parents in caring for the eaglet(s), as they would their own.

Juvenile bald eagles can be hacked to help repopulate an area. The process of hacking an eagle involves taking juvenile eaglets approximately six weeks of age (past the critical imprinting age) from an area where bald eagles are abundant and raising them until the age of their first flight (at about three months) in a site where eagles need to be restored. Since the bald eagle tends to return to the place of its maiden flight, eagles are released from the new location in the hopes that the bald eagle will return to the site to nest and raise its young.

Adult bald eagles may be rehabilitated from an injury and then released into the wild. Although the bald eagle will return to its own nesting area, the numbers of bald eagles reproducing overall is enhanced when eagles can return to their reproductive life. Bald eagles tend to have a lengthy reproductive life of from 20 -30 years in the wild.

Equipment Used in Recovery Efforts
The bald eagle recovery process is an expensive one. The equipment required to recover bald eagles varies according to the method of recovery that will be attempted.

Egg Borrowing or Recycling
Recovery methods that depend on transporting eggs require equipment that can safely transport the egg to its new location. Once at the location, a method of incubation must be decided. Transporting eggs also requires a method of transportation. Eggs are typically carried via air conditioned trucks. Transporting eggs over great distances is not advisable due to cost and danger to the egg. A list of equipment for transporting eggs and the purpose of each item follows:

foam lined tube: Just taking the egg from the nest to an incubator requires special care. Eggs are usually encased in a cardboard tube which has been filled with styrofoam. The styrofoam lining is designed to fit the egg snugly so that it does not move in the trip from the nest to the portable incubator.

portable incubator: A portable incubator is not as reliable as a regular incubator, but it is important for the egg to be kept at a steady temperature of 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit at all times.

incubator: The egg must continue to be incubated and rotated until it reaches its new location. The egg must be rotated to prevent the embryo from sticking to the shell of the egg.

bantim black cohin chickens: An alternate method of incubating a bald eagle egg is to incubate the egg by using chickens. This particular chicken has been used successfully to hatch eagle eggs since the temperature and methods of turning are as effective as those used by eagle parents.

Chick Feeding
tweezers: Ordinary tweezers may be used to feed scraps of food to hatchlings for up to nine days, before their eyes begin to focus.

latex gloves: Recovery staff should try to maintain a sterile environment and protect the chicks from human contact to protect them from bacteria and viruses and to minimize their exposure to humans.

Although the chicks will not be able to see clearly for several days, it is recommended that staff members dress in military style camouflage to prevent the chicks from identifying humans. A specially designed camouflage covering has a screened eye opening for personnel to see the chicks without the chicks being able to see them.

plastic eagle head puppet:
Once the chicks' eyes are completely open, staff members should continue to use camouflage dress, but tweezers are no longer suitable for feeding. The chicks are now at the critical age of imprinting. It is important for the chicks to receive food from a bald eagle. Since this is not possible, realistic eagle heads are fashioned from plastic to be used to feed the chicks and juvenile eagles. Food is placed in the mouth of the puppet and fed to the chick from the puppet's mouth.

plastic tubs:
Because fratricide, when an eagle chick kills a smaller chick, is a common problem in the wild, eagle chicks in captivity are separated and held in large plastic tubs which are heated with a regular heating pad. The tubs are filled with straw and other nesting materials for the chicks. The straw covers the heating pad to form a comfortable nesting area for the chicks.

heating pads:
See the explanation above for the function of the heating pad.

Juvenile Eaglet Care
hacking tower: When up to three eaglets reach six to eight weeks of age, they may be transferred to a hacking tower. This is a large wooden cage, minimum of 8' x 8' x 8', built high off the ground, 25 feet above ground or more, in an area providing a view of a large body of water and suitable nesting and perching sites for bald eagles. One side of the tower must slide open for the eaglets' release at fledging time. The cage must be built so that recovery personnel are not seen or heard.

man-made nest: Occasionally eaglets are released from man-made artificial nests rather than hacking towers. These nests are built high off the ground for the eagle to make its first flight as efficiently as possible. The nest consists of a large flat platform, indented in the middle to accomodate a nest similar to that of a bald eagle's.

feeding & water mechanisms:
Feeding and water mechanisms must be designed to prevent the eaglets from seeing or hearing or in any other way associating food and water with humans. One feeding mechanism consists of a drawer on rollers into which fish and other food can be placed to slide into the hacking tower cage. Another system consists of a drawer on a pulley which is slid horizontally into the cage from the air. Some hacking towers simply have chutes through which food is delivered. Water is generally pumped into the cage through a pipe which leads into the cage. The water pump is located below the cage.

perch poles: Perch poles are simply long wooden sticks attached to the release side of the hacking tower to allow nervous fledglings to rest before taking off.

predator guards: Predator guards are metal plates that are attached at shoulder height or above on the legs of the hacking tower. These plates guard against racoons or other predators that may attempt to enter the hacking tower.

metal or sturdy plastic rods: The side of the cage facing a large body of water is typically made of vertical rounded metal or sturdy plastic rods spaced 4-inches apart on center.  Eaglets can view typical eagle lake habitat through the vertical rods.  If the eaglets fly into the bars, they can avoid injury by safely sliding down the rods.  The rounded rods allow up to three eaglet(s) per 8x8x8-foot cage.

one-way mirror:
Recovery personnel cannot be seen or heard, but they must observe and record behaviors for the safety of the eaglets. A one-way mirror allows staff to observe the birds undetected.

patagial tags:
These vinyl tags, placed on the wings of the eagles, contain the colors and numbers used to identify the eaglets. Each state has a pre-determined series of numbers and colors.

transmitter equipment:
Before the eaglet takes its first flight, a transmitter is attached to a central tail feather or harness. These transmitters allow the birds to be tracked after they leave the hacking tower. Because juvenile eaglets are not completely prepared to deal with the wild and are inexperienced flyers, these tracking devices allow recovery staff to assist young eaglets if they are grounded or injured.

headlight: In order to band the eaglets without being seen, recovery personnel attach the patagial tags at night with headlights shining into the eyes of the eaglets.

Laws and Protection
Our national symbol, the bald eagle, is protected by federal law as a "threatened" species. The bald eagle has a long history of legal protection dating back to 1940. A list of the major legislation regarding the bald eagle is given below:

1782 — The Bald Eagle declared the symbol of the United States of America
1940 — The Bald Eagle Protection Act

The Bald Eagle Protection Act prohibits the take, possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, of any bald eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit. Take includes: pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, or molest or disturb. A $5,000 fine and/or one year imprisonment is imposed for failure to obey this law.

1952 — Alaska added to the Bald Eagle Protection Act
1966 — The Endangered Species Protection Act of 1966
1967 — The Southern Bald Eagle listed as an Endangered Species

The Southern Bald Eagle (all bald eagles found below the 40th parallel), but not the Northern Bald Eagle, is listed as endangered. The Northern Bald Eagle was not offered this protection because the bald eagle populations in Alaska and Canada appeared to be healthy.

1972 — DDT is banned for use in the United States
1973 — The Endangered Species Act of 1973

The Act allowed the listing of distinct populations of animial species and the addition of a new category of threatened. The Act defines an endangered species as a species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A threatened species is defined as any species that is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a signficant portion of its range. Restoring endangered and threatened animals and plants to the point wehre they are again viable, self-sustaining members of their ecosystems is the main goal of the Endangered Species Act. The Act contains recovery as well as listing and protection provisions. To effect recovery, the Act provides for the development and implementation of recovery plans for listed species. A recovery plan is a plan for the conservation and survival of the species. It identifies, describes, and schedules the actions necessary to restore endangered and threatened species to a more secure biological condition.

1978 — The Bald Eagle (both Northern & Southern) is listed as endangered in 43 of the 48 lower states and is listed as threatened rather than endangered in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, and Oregon.

Although scientists have proven that there is only one species, resource materials may continue to refer to the southern or northern bald eagle to identify the size and location of the eagle.

1995 — The Bald Eagle is reclassified as threatened in the 43 lower states where it was listed as endangered in 1978.

2007 — The Bald Eagle is delisted from threatened status in all of the 48 contiguous states. Its protection changed from the Endangered Species Act to that of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

How You Can Help

The American Eagle Foundation encourages students to participate in a School Letter Writing Campaign to ensure that American Eagle Day is observed in all 50 states. In addition, the American Eagle Foundation encourages students, clubs, organizations, & groups to conduct fundraisers in support of the protection of the Bald Eagle. Suggestion for fundraisers can be found here.
From: How to Save An Eagle
Teacher's Guide to Flight for Survival from The New Explorers
Written by a team of teachers and scientists from the Chicago Science Explorers Project and Chicago Explorer Partners
Sponsored by The United States Department of Energy through Argonne National Laboratory

Schools and students have played a major role in the struggle to save the American bald eagle.

Students across the nation saved labels from cans of Hunt-Wesson Big John's Pork & Beans to help raise money to save a bald eagle nesting site in Minnesota. The first National Children's Nesting Area, which included six bald eagle nests, became a part of the Chippewa National Forest.

Several years ago, students in Illinois contributed dimes to help save land used by bald eagles as winter roosts. The campaign was sponsored by the state's Department of Education and Department of Conservation, the Illinois Audubon Society, and the Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. The money raised, $52,000, was used to help preserve the Prairie State Eagle Refuge in Hancock County, and Oak Valley in Rock Island County.

Students all across the nation have raised money to help save winter roosts for bald eagles at Eagle Valley and Ferry Bluff in Wisconsin. These nature preserves include winter roosts for bald eagles.

Students in Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri have held Walks to Save an Eagle. Friends, families, and local businesses have pledged money. Some schools raised large sums - the Stockton Illinois High School, for example, collected $1,100 and the sixth grade in Weston, Missouri, raised $1,800 from their walk.

In Racine, Wisconsin, students sold pickles for a dime apiece during lunch hour at their school in order to raise money to help preserve Eagle Valley.

Many students have sold The Eagle Foundation's 25 cent "Save an Eagle" bumper sticker. One school in Kansas sold 2,600 of them. Another popular sale item is a postcard with a spectacular photo of a bald eagle on it. Some schools sold thousands of these during 1982, the nation's "Year of the Eagle".

Students at London Junior High School in Wheeling, Illinois sold bald eagle lapel pins to raise money. The students gave recognition to donors by printing their names on construction-paper silhouettes of eagles. The silhouettes were taped to the ceilings in the school's halls, and soon hundreds of construction paper eagles were "soaring" through the school.

The Eagle Foundation sponsors a Junior Eagle Club which students can join. With their membership fees, students "purchase" a square meter of land at Eagle Valley. Each member receives a button and a membership card. At one school in Florida, every student joined in the Junior Eagle Club.

Students may also help endangered species and other wildlife by keeping the environment clean, engaging in clean-up campaigns, learning, writing reports, and sharing information with fellow students, and writing letters to elected officials about environmental problems.

Helping save the bald eagle means more than just raising money to preserve habitat. It means learning about the bald eagle and the natural world. It means telling other people about the problems facing the bald eagle. It sometimes means taking action. When it was learned that developers planned to build a motel overlooking the Oak Valley eagle roost, hundreds and hundreds of students wrote to protest to government officials.

As you learn more about the bald eagle, you'll probably think of lots of things you can do to help save our national symbol.