The bald eagle is a long-lived bird, with a lifespan in the wild of more than 30 years. Bald eagles mate for life, returning to nest in the general area (within 250 miles) from which they fledged. Once a pair selects a nesting territory, they use it for the rest of their lives. However, bald eagles face threats to their long lifespan and nesting territories due to a wide range of human impacts including habitat loss and plastic pollution. Plastics can find their way into eagle nests in the form of nest building materials, can be ingested through scavenging or through their prey, or cause entanglement leading to injury or death.
Together, we can all take steps in our everyday lives to help protect these majestic birds:
- Dispose of fishing line appropriately. Improperly disposing of fishing line can lead to entanglement.
- Dispose of bait containers and other plastic litter properly. These items can break down in the environment and be ingested by the prey that eagles consume.
- Keep lids on any outdoor trash and recycling bins to prevent items from becoming litter.
- Choose reusable items when possible—from reusable sandwich bags to straws, many fun and useful options are available to choose from!
- Skip single-use items like utensils, napkins, and condiment packets when ordering takeout or having food delivered if you already have these things at home.
The photo shown here is an outstanding opportunity to see three bald eagles devouring their lunch, but even more fantastic of an opportunity to be able to learn there’s more to the story. DEC wildlife biologists noticed right away the eagle in the center was banded and contacted the National Bird Banding Laboratory to learn more. They discovered that the eagle was banded in June 1995—26 years ago—in Parishville, NY!
Photo of bald eagles by Bill Straite.