St. John River: Return Flight
Bald eagles recover old nesting sites
Fifty years ago, the basin of the lower Saint John was an important nesting
spot for bald eagles, an enduring North American symbol of power and dignity.
They made their nests in tall, strong, white pine, elm and maple trees. The branches were
the perfect camouflage for their colouring. Preferring to breed near water, the Saint John
River allowed them to be close to a good supply of fish.
The birds suffered a dramatic decline in the mid-1900s. Only one pair was seen in the 1970s.
One belief is that the farm poison, DDT, prevented the eagle eggs from hatching. DDT is
an insecticide that tends to accumulate in ecosystems, having a toxic effect on many types
of wildlife. Another theory says that the birds were simply shot by irresponsible hunters.
By the 1970s, DDT use was banned and the chemical started to slowly disappear from the fish
and animal populations from which the eagles harvested their food. At the same time, education
and legislation reduced the irresponsible killing of wildlife. The eagles began to reappear.
The sight of these soaring raptors is, once again, becoming an everyday occurrence. There
are now an estimated 30 breeding birds the lower Saint John River valley.
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