SAVING THE DESERT NESTING BALD EAGLE
The Southwest’s desert rivers harbor a uniquely adapted population of bald eagles known as desert nesting bald eagles — geographically, behaviorally, and even biologically different from other American bald eagles. No other bald eagle population nests under such conditions of high heat and low humidity or suffers such high mortality. But “nesting” may be a misnomer these days: primarily due to habitat loss, only a few dozen breeding pairs are known to remain on Earth.
For three decades, desert nesters were closely managed as the distinct population they are, bringing the population back from three reproducing nests in 1970 — truly the brink of extinction — to 43 breeding pairs by 2006. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was preparing to delist the bald eagle nationally. To make sure desert nesters weren’t a casualty of that delisting, the Center and allies submitted a petition, in 2004, to separate them from their thriving counterparts in other states and to thereby protect them as a “distinct population segment” under the Endangered Species Act.
+ Agency memos and communications
Contact: Robin Silver
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