by Nicole Rivard
January 5 is National Bird Day—a day to raise awareness about birds’ challenges and how humans can ease them. It’s a day dedicated to appreciating wild birds flying freely outside our windows, but also to reflect on the plight of birds native to other countries who are captured in the wild or bred in captivity to fuel the nefarious international bird trade.
I have never appreciated wild birds more since my recent encounters with two bald eagles.
I can’t help but look out across the golf course I drive by at sunrise a couple days a week because it can be picturesque—sometimes it’s blanketed in fog or the rising sun creates dazzling pops of colors in the sky. What grabbed my attention in early December was the contrast between the stark white head and tail and dark brown body and wings of a bird sitting high up in a sycamore tree. I thought it was a hawk until its bright yellow bill and overall stature registered in my brain—it was a bald eagle!
I’ve lived in Fairfield County, Connecticut, for 24 years and I’ve never seen a bald eagle. I couldn’t resist driving home to get my camera and zoom lens and was relieved the raptor was still there when I returned. I relished the hour I spent creating pics of this majestic bird. I went back a few days later and spotted the eagle again. Then the most unexpected thing happened—another bald eagle landed. I got to observe their courtship rituals of calling to each other, perching near each other and billing—that’s when they touch their bills together.
I love the patience and stillness of birds and nature. That saying “Nature doesn’t hurry, yet everything is accomplished” is a beautiful reminder that there’s no need to stress or rush. Nature knows that everything will come at the right time. That’s why it is so fulfilling to work for Friends of Animals, which places wildlife and critical habitat at the core of our mission.
Its unimaginable that our national symbol—the bald eagle was adopted as the symbol in 1782—was once threatened with extinction because it was treated like a pest and killed by ranchers, displaced by logging and then harmed by the pesticide DDT. DDT affected bald eagles by poisoning them when they ate contaminated fish and weakening their eggshells. America saved its national symbol by banning DDT and listing the bald eagle under the Endangered Species Act.
The eagle’s story inspires Friends of Animals to act on behalf of other raptors (and mammals) who are dying because of the reckless use of rodenticides. We are working on getting second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides and the first-generation anticoagulant rodenticide diphacinone banned in Connecticut. There is no such thing as a safe poison that kills only the intended victim.
Rodenticides are no exception as they are not only deadly to the targeted animals, mice or rats, but also to non-targeted hawks, falcons, eagles, owls, vultures, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, raccoons. The non- targeted victims succumb to secondary poisoning after consuming poisoned rodents, which are their natural prey.
We’ll also be going to the wall for barred owls in 2024. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to enlist shooters to kill more than 500,000 barred owls over the next 30 years in the Pacific Northwest to preserve habitat for northern spotted owls, a protected species. Friends of Animals challenged the original “experiment” to kill barred owls to see the impact on spotted owls. Now FWS is proposing to make this a more permanent management plan. We will be reviewing the Environmental Impact Statement and submitting comments on it. We’ll also look over the final decision when it is issued and see if there is a legal challenge we can make.
In addition, FoA filed a lawsuit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because the agency failed to list a distinct population of scarlet macaws as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. A species clearly on the brink of extinction, there are only about 25 of the Northern Distinct Population Segment of the southern subspecies of scarlet macaws remaining in Panama and 1,000 in Costa Rica. One of the drivers behind their decline is people seeking to lock them in cages and put them on display as pets. FoA’s challenge comes after FWS, in 2012, decided to list the Northern DPS of the scarlet macaw as endangered, which would protect the birds from the pet trade. Then in 2016, FWS threw logic and the best available science out the door and abruptly changed its decision to list the population as threatened.
To celebrate National Bird Day, please consider donating to Friends of Animals at www.friendsofanimals.org. Here are a few other ideas to help to make every day National Bird Day:
- Go bird watching. This is a fun, inexpensive hobby you can enjoy at any age, anywhere. Once you begin noticing the birds, you’ll appreciate the other aspects of nature as well. Get started with the National Park Services’ Birding for Beginners.
- Listen to bird calls. You can listen to some at this link to get some practice: bird songs.
- Plan a trip that involves bird watching. We like this roundup of the top places on the U:S. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/best-places-for-birding-usa
Rest assured; you don’t have to wait for a big trip—you can also simply enjoy the birds in your own community. You may be living near bald eagles too! In 2021, USFWS reported the bald eagle population in the lower 48 states totaled approximately 316,700 individuals, which included 71,467 breeding pairs. In 1963, there were just 417 nesting pairs of bald eagles known to exist!
It’s remarkable what we can achieve when we appreciate birds and take conservation actions to protect them.
Editor-in-Chief; Media/Government Relations Nicole Rivard started working at Friends of Animals in 2013. She brings 28 years of journalism experience to FoA’s Action Line and to the front lines— protesting and documenting atrocities against animals. Nicole also helps direct FoA’s legislative outreach.