Bald Eagles: A Success Story

Courtesy of Skidaway Audubon

If you’ve ever enjoyed watching bald eagles on a bird-cam, in the treetops at the Bartram Road lagoon, or above the Moon River bridge, thank the Endangered Species Act.

May 21 is Endangered Species Day, an opportunity to celebrate success stories like the bald eagle and raise awareness about restoration efforts for imperiled species. In the 1960s, approximately only 500 bald eagles remained in the continental United States due to pesticides that contaminated their habitats and ultimately resulted in the death of their young before they could even hatch. Thanks to the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) passed in 1973; bald eagle numbers have rebounded to more than 7,000 breeding pairs today. 

Under the ESA, the federal government has the responsibility to protect endangered species (those likely to become extinct) and threatened species that could become endangered in the future. It is also responsible for protecting critical habitat areas vital to the survival of endangered or threatened species.

“The underlying purpose of the ESA is to preserve biodiversity,” said Skidaway Audubon President Dawn Cordo. “Losing even a single species can negatively impact an entire ecosystem because the effects can be felt throughout the food chain.”

Georgia is home to more than 70 species of plants and animals protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, including the Leatherback sea turtle, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, Hawksbill sea turtle, the red-cockaded woodpecker, Frosted Flatwoods salamander, piping plovers, red knots, and wood storks. The diamondback terrapin is a protected species under Georgia law.

How can you help? The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has several specialty license plates, each funding a different conservation program, including the Wildlife/Bald Eagle plate. Funds from this license plate go to Georgia’s Wildlife Conservation Fund. In addition to supporting conservation, education, and monitoring and restoration efforts, these funds help acquire thousands of acres of wildlands. To obtain a special plate, visit the Chatham County Tag Office.

Photo by Amy Collings