- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

The bald eagle, America's national bird and a symbol of patriotism, is back from the brink of extinction and flourishing in the Chesapeake.
The Chesapeake Bay Program has released figures showing a 16 percent increase in the number of nests on the Bay in the past year.
The bald eagle is doing so well, in fact, that the Environmental Protection Agency is considering dropping the bird from its list of threatened species.
"We're glad the eagle is coming back strong," said Peter Marx, a spokesman for the EPA. "It's a great success story."
Last year's 618 active nests produced a record number of 903 eaglets, up from the 533 nests and 813 young eagles in 2000.
In Maryland, 297 nests produced 432 young; Virginia's 300 nests and 446 eaglets were tops in the region.
For the second consecutive year, one active nest and a youngster was documented in the District, near the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers.
"Improved water quality and the preservation and restoration of the bald eagle habitat have allowed the species to once again flourish throughout the Bay watershed," said Diana Esher, acting director of the Chesapeake Bay Program.
"We hope to see their numbers continue to grow throughout the next decade as Bay protection and restoration activities expand," she said.
Scientists believe that more than 3,000 pairs of bald eagles inhabited the Chesapeake Bay watershed at one time. By 1963, only 417 breeding pairs remained in large part because of the heavy use of the pesticide DDT, which made the egg shells too fragile. The number of breeding pairs was down to 72 nesting pairs in 1977, an all-time low.
DDT was banned in 1972, and Haliaeetus leucocephalus the scientific name of the bald eagle was protected under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973.
Since then, the eagle population has shown a steady rebound. In 1995, the EPA reclassified the bird as threatened instead of endangered.
Still, development remains a concern.
Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania are trying to create buffer zones for the bald eagle and other wildlife on the Bay by restoring 2,000 miles of waterside forests.
"There is something special about looking up and seeing a bald eagle fly over your head," said Mr. Marx of the EPA. "You just kind of stop and your jaw drops."
The wingspan of an adult eagle is 6 to 7 feet. Among its most impressive abilities is its eyesight: The bald eagle has two centers of focus in each retina, and processes separately in each eye, meaning they see four different images at once.
The bald eagle is not named literally. "Bald" comes from an Old English word "balde," which means white.
The bird does not even have a white head and tail until it is 4 or 5 years old. Until then, its feathers are a mottled brown.
Mr. Marx said bald eagles are opportunistic feeders that eat primarily fish. Their preferred habitat is near open water.
Improving water quality in the Bay is crucial to the bird's continued success, said Mr. Marx, because it increases the number of fish and makes the water clearer and easier for the birds to hunt fish.
"The Bay and its tributaries are exactly what the bald eagle needs," said Mr. Marx.

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