The Bald Eagle: A Louisiana Success Story

The Bald Eagle: A Louisiana Success Story

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Way up in a pine tree on the north shore, a tiny head peeks from below its parent. An American bald eagle takes in its first views of the world.

The scene plays out in remote - and sometimes not so remote - spots around South Louisiana.

Outside Abita Springs, a family raising youngsters causes a sensation as neighbors and visitors gather to watch a nesting pair raise a new set of eaglets.

"It's amazing to see them where they were now," said Al Batt, a trustee with the American Bald Eagle Foundation speaking of the recovery of the species.

"Each time I see one, I say 'wow,' because no other word seems to work," he said.

Around 1970, only five breeding pairs of eagles were documented in Louisiana. Scientists blamed their demise mostly on the pesticide DDT, the same agent that virtually wiped out the Louisiana brown pelican.

Since the government banned DDT, both species have rebounded, with the eagle on a slow and steady climb back from the brink.

Each spring, the "Eagle Expo" in Morgan City draws more than 100 bird watchers and photographers to one of the hot spots for bald eagles in the South.

Carry Gautreaux Stansbury, Director of the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau, says eagles are now, "so prevalent, almost any day you can look up in the sky and see eagles."

St. Mary and Terrebonne parishes account for about 100 nesting pairs.

"When I was a kid, I did not see an eagle until I was 14 years old," Batt said. "I thought it was something that grown-ups made up."

Conservation forces see the eagle's recovery as dramatic evidence that man should be paying attention to other species before they are in trouble.

"When we let populations get very low, we have to put a tremendous amount into rescuing them," said Melanie Driscoll of Audubon Louisiana.

Late this winter, a Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department survey counted roughly 350 active nests in Louisiana, some of them showing up in surprising places. Take, for example, the happy couple that chose a spot smack dab in the middle of Algiers.

Driscoll notes man cannot control exactly where wild creatures choose to make their homes.

"They need tall, sturdy trees and they need a lot of sticks to build massive nests and they need a lot of fish," Driscoll said. "They get those things in New Orleans."

In recent years, other eagles have built nests along Interstate 10 near the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

"I think everybody should just pat themselves on the back," Batt said. "It's a story well done."

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