Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve: Bald Eagle Sighting

June 2, 2011

Recently, two members of our stewardship staff spotted a Bald Eagle flying over our Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve. They watched, mesmerized, as it soared past Swedesford Road and out of sight.

Within minutes the raptor reappeared only to land in the lone hickory tree out in the middle of the warm season grass meadow. The bird rested just long enough for staffer Steve Longenecker to a get a shot with his camera. It was only the second Bald Eagle sighting at the preserve to the best of anyone’s memory.

Here are some facts on this spectacular species:

– The Bald Eagle is the second largest North American bird of prey after the California Condor.

– The Bald Eagle prefers habitats near rivers, large lakes, oceans, and other large bodies of open water with an abundance of fish. The species requires old-growth and mature stands of coniferous or hardwood trees for perching, roosting, and nesting. They are extremely sensitive to human activity, and is found most commonly in areas free of human disturbance

– Bald Eagles are monogamous and thought to pair for life.

– Once common across much of North America, the Bald Eagle underwent a dramatic decline between the late 1700s and the 1960s as a result of intense hunting, habitat loss, and poisoning by pesticides (notably DDT), lead shot and other pollutants. In addition, DDT is believed to have caused widespread eggshell thinning and reproductive failure.

– In the United States, the species was listed for protection under the Bald Eagle Protection Act in 1940 (now the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act), and later under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and various regional recovery plans were produced. However, the dramatic recovery in bald eagle numbers led to the species being removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007, as it was no longer considered to need the protection of the Endangered Species Act.