For the Birds Radio Program: Bald Eagle

Original Air Date: March 6, 1989

Today Laura Erickson talks about one of the Northland’s finest attractions, the Bald Eagle.

Audio missing


(Recording of a Bald Eagles)

I recently talked to a woman who has lived in Duluth all her life who has never, ever seen a Bald Eagle. I found this out on February second, the very day that I watched an adult eagle circling over the Duluth Harbor, it’s white head and tail gleaming under the frozen blue sky, its breathtaking beauty juxtaposed above the dingy, billboard spattered harbor.

Our national emblem is on the endangered species list in 44 states—we in the Northland are fortunate to live in one of the only areas in the nation where eagles are classified as threatened rather than endangered. The only states where this is true are Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Alaska, Washington, and Oregon.

Of course, eagles are not common even here, but it’s not all that unusual to see them within our cities as well as wild areas. The first bird I ever saw from my yard the day we moved into our house was an adult Bald Eagle cruising over Lakeside. And the first bird my own little nestling Tommy ever saw was a Bald Eagle gliding right past our corner window on the obstetrics floor at St. Luke’s Hospital.

Late winter is probably the most depressing time to live in Duluth—the snow is sooty and pock-marked, most of the snow sculptures have melted into amorphous blobs, and skies can often be as gray as a junco’s back. It’s easy to forget just how much beauty surrounds us if we trudge through the streets with our heads down. Yet even downtown Duluth isn’t all bricks and billboards. The thousands of pigeons that live there may not be the most aesthetically-pleasing of birds, but they fly with a grace and power unique in the bird world. Watch them sometime–they flap hard, and then suddenly pull their wings into a sharp “V” and glide, banking from side to side as they wheel through the sky. If you watch pigeons long enough, you may luck out and see a Merlin or Peregrine Falcon suddenly materialize and join in a high-speed chase. And if you develop the habit of looking up instead of down, sooner or later you’re bound to see a Bald Eagle.

(Recording of a Bald Eagle)

Eagles never left the Northland this winter, having at least some open water for fishing all season. Large numbers of them winter near dams and power plants, where dead and stunned fish are common–eagles are notoriously lazy and would just as soon pick up their fish already dead. They also eat a lot of carrion—they’re often seen picking at roadkills. One lucky man in Port Wing had a couple of eagles coming to his feeder this winter for hard boiled eggs. As small lakes thaw as winter ends, eagles are among the first migrants to return each year. Since they follow rivers and lake shores, people throughout the Northland are likely to see them, if they keep their eyes on the skies.

(Recording of a Bald Eagles)

This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”