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Bald Eagle

Of the estimated 50,000 bald eagles (Haliaetus leucocephalus) in North America, about 80 percent are found in Alaska. But many bald eagles migrate to California during the colder months and nest, particularly in the Northern Sierra. Finding bald eagles in California was becoming difficult in the 1970s. Bald eagle populations had dwindled since the late 1950s. The federal government officially considered the bald eagle to be an endangered species in 1976, and authorities have recognized the birdís dwindling population since the late 1960s. Pesticides, such as DDT, probably caused most of the eagleís problems. The pesticides were sprayed on plants eaten by invertebrates, which were then eaten by eagles. The poison accumulated in the birds, hampering their abilities to produce viable eggs. But after more than two decades, the eagleís population is on the rebound. Federal officials in July 1999 recommended the bird to be removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act. An adult bald eagle grows to about 3 feet in length with a wingspan of 7 to 8 feet. The bird weighs 10 to 14 pounds. Wild bald eagles may live as long as 30 years, but it is more common for them to live about 20 years. They normally mate for life, and the female usually lays two eggs that hatch in about 5 weeks.

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