ALL BIRDS OF PREY may be doomed because they quickly accumulate pesticide residues from the flesh they eat. The most magnificent, of them all, the bald eagle, is especially vulnerable in that dead fish, its staple diet, are often themselves the victims of nearby spraying with DDT.
Despite their lofty status as the U.S. national emblem (Benjamin Franklin fought the choice because of the eagle’s piratical habit of snatching fisli-Mrom the osprey), bald eagles have been slaughtered for centuries. There was pnce a bounty for killing them, * apparently on the grounds that they had a wingspan of up to 90 inches and fierce-looking beaks. Farmers shot them out of their gigantic nests at the tops of tall trees; egg collectors pursued them relentlessly. Even before the pesticide problem was recognized in the early Sixties the white-headed bird had almost disappeared from
the southern parts of its breeding range, which covered most of Canada.
One exception was Point Pelee Provincial Park in southwestern Ontario, where a few pairs of eagles returned to nest until 1969. According to the late Jim Baillie, an assistant curator in the ornithology department at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, DDT residues were responsible for this local extinction, either by killing the eagles or sterilizing their eggs. Mrs. Florence Weekes, an amateur ornithologist from London, Ont., has been able to find only a few active nesting sites in a large area of the province that abounded with bald eagles 50 years ago.
She has also recorded the details of four additional sightings in southwestern Ontario. All four of these birds were shot, two of them off their nests. There is a maximum fine of $1,000 for killing or molesting a bald eagle. Two men were charged; they were each fined $50. □
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