Loyal Loop reader Ed Merians spotted this rare beauty at Duck Pond in Larchmont this past week. He writes, “This is a first for me. I’ve lived here over 60 years.”
What you see is a Bald Eagle.
According to the Connecticut DEP, The bald eagle is best known as the national emblem of the United States of America. It was chosen for this honor in 1782 by the Second Continental Congress because the species is unique to North America. However, the bald eagle went from being common in the early 1700s to extremely rare in the lower 48 states by the 1960s. This precipitous decline was due to loss of habitat and nesting trees, food contamination by pesticides, and illegal shooting. Contamination of food by the organochlorine pesticide DDT is widely accepted as a major reason why populations of eagles, along with many other raptor species, declined in the mid-20th century. DDT accumulated in the food chain and, when contaminated food was ingested by eagles, it caused them to lay eggs with weakened shells that cracked when the birds incubated their eggs. Eagle populations across the country were decimated. General use of DDT was banned in the United States in 1972.
The bald eagle was first declared an endangered species with the passage of the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973. Populations eventually began to recover due to the ban on DDT use, successful reintroduction programs of fostered chicks and fledglings, and habitat and nest protection measures. In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reclassified the bald eagle from endangered to threatened in the lower 48 states.