VOA Special English
Technology Helps Americans See National Bird in the Wild


    The bald eagle is important and has special meaning to many Americans. The bird represents the American ideal of freedom. It has served as the national symbol of the United States since 1782.

    An image of a bald eagle appears on the Great Seal of the United States. The image is found in many government buildings and on official documents. The bird also appears on the presidential flag and on the back of the U.S. dollar bill.

    The North American bald eagle was threatened with extinction 50 years ago, but has recovered in great numbers over the years.

    In the past, it was rare for most Americans to see a bald eagle in real life. But thanks to technology, many are now able to watch these national treasures 24 hours a day.

    There are now at least 15 cameras set up at bald eagle nests across the country. These cameras provide “live images” of the birds on the internet.

    Most bald eagles are found in the northern state of Alaska, while Minnesota, Wisconsin and Florida also have large populations.

    This 2017 photo provided by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection shows a baby bald eagle in a nest in a tree in Columbia, Conn. (Brian Hess/CT Deep via AP)
    This 2017 photo provided by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection shows a baby bald eagle in a nest in a tree in Columbia, Conn. (Brian Hess/CT Deep via AP)

    Shawnlei Breeding is head of the EagleWatch Project at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. She says bald eagles “inspire a lot of passion” among many Americans. “They (the birds) become like family to the people who watch them,” she added.

    Bald eagles generally reproduce throughout their lifetime and use the same nest year after year to raise their young.

    Kevin Fossett watches images from an “eagle-cam” every day at his home in St. Petersburg, Florida. The nest is 354 kilometers away, near the city of Jacksonville.

    Fossett served in the U.S. Navy. He told the Reuters news agency that in recent years, he has watched several eagles born in the nest. The births usually happen in the winter or early spring. By summer, the young eagles have usually left the nest. “Flying free, as they should be,” Fossett said.

    In 2011, one eagle-cam in Iowa went viral with 280 million views. That information comes from Amy Ries, who helps direct an eagle-cam website for the not-for-profit Raptor Resource Project. She says the site has continued to grow over the years. Seven eagle-cams at Explore.org reported a 223 percent increase in views in 2018 compared with a year earlier, Reuters reported.

    High-quality images sent from the nests permit eagle lovers to see extreme close-ups of the birds. Viewers are able to count bird feathers, observe eye patterns and see what the animals eat.

    “We can see the tiny eyelashes of an eagle,” said Veronika Soul, a retired filmmaker, from New York, who watches two bald eagle nests. “We see things happen at nest level that people on the ground never see.”

    Eagle-cam watchers say it is especially fun to see baby eagles take their first flights.

    In 1963, the U.S. bald eagle population was severely threatened, with only an estimated 487 pairs remaining, federal officials reported. After many years of federal protection, the number started to grow.

    The big turning point came in 1972, when the Environmental Protection Agency banned the pesticide product DDT. The population has grown greatly since then and the bald eagle was removed from the endangered list in 2007.

    The last available information in 2009 showed there were 143,000 bald eagles in the United States. Updated numbers are expected to be released next year.

    I’m Bryan Lynn.

    Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    symbol n. a sign or object used to represent something

    extinction n. when a type of animal no longer exists

    nest n. a home built by birds for their eggs

    inspire v. make someone feel that they want to do something and can do it

    passion n. strong belief in something

    view – n. the ability to look at something

    eyelash n. one of the short hairs that grow from the edge of your eyelids

    pairn. two of something

    pesticide n. chemical substance used to kill harmful insects, small animals, wild plants, and other unwanted organisms

    update – v. add new information