Widespread lead poisoning found in bald eagles

Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | February 17, 2022

New research from across the U.S. found many bald and golden eagles have lead poisoning.

The study examined 1,200 eagles from Alaska to Florida and found 46 percent of bald eagles and 47 percent of golden eagles had chronic lead poisoning. The eagles tested reside in 38 different states. According to the research, they are continually exposed to toxic heavy metals throughout their life spans.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Raptor Coordinator Brian Millsap coauthored the study. He said the research shows that “lead reduces the rate of population growth for both of these protected species.” While bald eagles were taken off the endangered species list in 2007 according to NBC News, Millsap said the golden eagle’s population is not as stable. He said the population could tip into overall decline due to the lead exposure.

The study is the first of its kind. Todd Katzner, a supervisory research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the study’s lead author, said the study illuminates how the lead in the environment can negatively impact eagles within the continent. The eight-year research project found lead can have lethal effects on the birds at a population level. The study suggests the exposure could impact the growth of both eagle species’ population moving forward.

Scientists believe lead can be entering the birds’ bodies via their food consumptions. The concentrations of lead spiked in the winter months, when it is harder for birds to find meals and eagles start to scavenge for meals for longer.

The lead exposure also leads to a reduced growth in bald eagles by nearly four percent.

Frigid weather threatens Decorah eagle eggs

Photo by Brendon Lake, Flickr.
A bald eagle nest in Iowa.
Photo by Brendon Lake, Flickr.

This winter’s polar vortex is expected to generate subzero low temperatures and daytime temperatures hovering around ten degrees for over a week, threatening the Decorah eagle’s eggs.

The pair laid their first egg on Sunday and more are expected to arrive this week.

In order to keep the eggs from freezing, one of the parents will have to stay on the nest at all times.

To read more about the Decorah eggs in peril, head to the Gazette. Or, the eagle pair and their nest can be live streamed here.


Decorah Eagle Cam eaglets arrive

Photo captured from the Raptor Resource Project's Decorah Eagle Cam.

The Raptor Resource Project welcomed two new eaglets into the Decorah Eagle Cam family this week, with a third and final eaglet expected to arrive very shortly.

Millions of viewers worldwide have tuned in to the Decorah Eagle Cam since its installation in 2009.

Watch the live cam here, or continue reading for recorded videos of the eaglets hatching.

Continue reading

On the Radio: Our national bird’s troubled history

Photo by Larry Meade, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s discusses the troubled history and promising future of the bald eagle in Iowa.

Did you know that less than 40 years ago there were zero bald eagles nesting in Iowa?

Continue reading

Decorah Eagle Cam spies two new eggs

Photo captured from the Raptor Resource Project's Decorah Eagle Cam.

A pair of eggs were recently discovered in the nest of a famous Iowa bald eagle family, and thousands tuned in to observe the birds via a webcam installed by the Raptor Resource Project.

The first egg was laid on February 17th, and the second egg was laid on February 20th.

The webcam has earned the birds a fair bit of national attention – millions of viewers have accessed the camera since it’s installation in 2009.

For more information, and to view a live stream of the eagles, check out the Raptor Resource Project’s Decorah Eagle Cam.

Bald Eagle Appreciation Days this weekend

Bald eagle near Davenport, IA. Photo by LSykora, Flickr.

This upcoming weekend, Keokuk will hold its 28th annual Bald Eagle Appreciation Days.

The event will include guided bird watching, environmental exhibits and seminars, and live bird presentations.

The bald eagle population has fluctuated greatly in both Iowa and the rest of the country over our nation’s history. Estimates indicate that there were 100,000 eagle pairs in the lower 48 states at the time of European settlement in North America. By 1960 there were less than 4,000 eagles left. This decline is attributed to direct human disturbance, habitat loss and pesticides.

In Iowa, there was no known evidence of bald eagle nesting after 1905. Thanks in large part to a series of bald eagle protective acts, the specie’s population has increased dramatically in both Iowa and the rest of the U.S. over the past 50 years. Continue reading