Bald Eagles

Exploring Kansas Outdoors: American Eagle Day

Eagle TV

Steve Gilliland

On June 20, 1872, the Great Seal of the United States was adopted, emblazoned with the bald eagle at its center, and for the past 150 years the bald eagle has served as a living symbol of freedom, courage, of strength, spirit, independence and excellence, all that America stands for. June 20 has been proclaimed National American Eagle Day as a way to celebrate the bald eagle, a living symbol of the freedom of the Americas, and to draw attention to its spectacular recovery from the brink of extinction. In honor of that, here are some facts and trivia about the bald eagle.

By the early 1960s, the bald eagle population in the lower 48 states had fallen to less than 500 breeding pairs, and by 1967 they were listed as endangered. In 1995, bald eagles were moved to an endangered species list, and today, thanks to conservation efforts, it is estimated that there are nearly 138,000 bald eagles in those same 48 states. . The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) estimates that there are 137 breeding pairs here in Kansas, and several thousand bald eagles spend time in Kansas each winter. The best time to see bald eagles in Kansas is November through February, and the best sighting is near any of our large lakes and reservoirs and anywhere along the rivers.

Bald eagles often build nests 50 feet or more off the ground. The nests aren’t particularly pretty, looking like a random pile of sticks. The same pair uses the same nest year after year, enlarging them each time, and after several years a bald eagle’s nest can easily be the size of a small coin. The largest eagle’s nest ever recorded was in Florida and measured 9 ½ feet in diameter, measured 20 feet from top to bottom, and weighed approximately 4,500 pounds. A female bald eagle lays 1-3 pure white eggs once a year in the spring. When I was still living in Ohio, there were many active eagle nests along Lake Erie, and a game warden friend of mine was in charge of supervising those nests. He had hours of amazing video of them checking the nests and the chicks inside each spring. They did it by helicopter using 3 people; the pilot, a second person who was lowered from the helicopter into each nest and a third person as a lookout, constantly watching the sky for adult eagles to prevent them from flying into the helicopter blades, killing the eagle and crushing the helicopter in the process.

The majority of the bald eagle’s diet consists of fish and waterfowl. So when things freeze up in the winter in the north, the eagles migrate south to find open waters where they can still fish. Even when our Kansas reservoirs freeze over, the rivers feeding each reservoir still offer open water. Kansas ice fishermen often leave a few carp or other rough fish on the ice for the eagles. The huge influx of waterfowl across Kansas each winter is also a big draw for eagles. From their vantage point 1,000 feet or more above the ground, an eagle’s miraculous eyes can spot prey over an area of ​​3 square miles.

Unfortunately, it seems that American Eagle Day receives very little publicity. At a time like this, with all the negativity about our country and all the internal division, it seems to me that there is no better time than now to find something to celebrate and to come together in as Americans. So remember this coming June 20 and take a little time not only to celebrate the tenacity of our national symbol the bald eagle, but also to remember that we live in what is still the best country in the world. world.

Steve Gilliland, Inman, can be contacted by email at [email protected]