Eagles in Delaware: A Comeback Story

Eagles in Delaware: A Comeback Story

Author Haley Jordan and Isabel Snyder

A bald eagle soaring through Delaware caught mid-flight. Recent decades have seen a dramatic rebound in Delaware’s bald eagle populations. Photo by Derek Stoner.

A bald eagle soaring through Delaware caught mid-flight. Recent decades have seen a dramatic rebound in Delaware’s bald eagle populations. Photo by Derek Stoner.

Many will agree that there is no greater symbol of American freedom than the bald eagle. These gracefulbirds of prey used to soar around the Delaware area in great numbers; however, in the not too distant past, the only time someone was likely to see an eagle was on television or on the one dollar bill. 

But what caused this immense decline in their population, and why are the numbers growing again? We talked to environmentalists and native bird experts Jim Jordan and Derek Stoner to answer these questions. 

The story goes back to before the 1960’s, when eagles were surviving and thriving in the state of Delaware. But by the year 1970, the population had decreased by about 75%. There was one most prevalent cause of this rapid population decline: the use of DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane). DDT is an agricultural insecticide that was used from the late 1940’s to the early 1970’s. Jordan explained to us that “DDT was bioaccumulative and it would build up in the bird and weaken the shells of their eggs, which greatly reduced the number of hatchlings”. This along with several other factors caused an enormous decline in the bald eagle population.

In the year 1972, a law was created banning the use of DDT. both Stoner and Jordan say that this ban is the main reason for their comeback. Another reason for their comeback is the preservation of habitat for these animals. Since 1972, the bald eagle has made an incredible comeback in this area. Stoner even said that “now there are probably more than there were before the decline”. 

Although the bald eagle is no longer endangered, there are still many things that we can do in order to help protect the species that our nation loves so dearly. Stoner stated that the best way to help was to “ know that if you find a nest you should report it to wildlife biologists so that they are aware and can take care of it”. An example of this occurred very close to Charter at the Wilmington riverfront, where a nest was discovered and reportedto wildlife biologists. The biologists were then able to protect the birds by prohibiting people from getting too close to their nest. This is a great success story of reporting a nest and proves that we should all follow this guideline if we discover a bald eagle nest.

The Delaware area has done an excellent job in improving the population and habitat of bald eagles, but there is still much to be done. The most important thing to do is to continue telling the story of the decline and comeback of this creature. In doing so, others will begin to understand just how much humans can affect the natural world. 

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