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Oregon says bald eagles are good to go without special protection
Many of them visit and live in Klamath’s wetlands

The Herald and News View by editor Pat Bushey 3/29/12

America’s bald eagle has completed a long journey back. The symbol of the United States was removed from Oregon’s endangered species list earlier this month after being taken off the national Endangered Species List in 2007.

Bald eagles almost are common in the Klamath Basin — but still draw stares when perched on the power poles and trees south of Klamath Falls along Highway 97, fussing with each other over a waterfowl meal in boggy fields, or staring out from a well-known roost tree along the nature trail in Moore Park.

The Basin is renowned for having the biggest population of bald eagles in the Lower 48 states. Some years it gets close to a thousand. Eagles can have a wingspan of nearly 8 feet and usually weigh 10 to 14 pounds.

Most eagles follow millions of waterfowl that fly south along the Pacific Flyway and stop in the wetlands that include several refuges near Klamath Falls. The area also has year-round resident eagles and a large supply of fish in lakes and rivers, which eagles also feed on.

It wasn’t always that way. Many of the birds were killed to protect livestock or fell victim to the pesticide DDT. After hunting was forbidden and DDT was banned, the big flying predators made a comeback in a big way. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimated that in 2010, the state had a nesting population of 636 bald eagle pairs, after dropping to 65 pairs in 1978.

They’ve always been a highlight of life in the Basin, along with the other flying critters that spend part or most of the year here. White pelicans will be here soon in large numbers. So will the western grebes with their courtship runs across the water. Later in the spring, they will be cruising local waters with their fledglings on their backs.

Local interest in the bald eagle also gave birth to the annual Winter Wings Festival, which started out in 1979 as a science-oriented conference focused on the eagle. Eventually it spread its wings, added other activities and called attention to the more than 350 bird species that have been found in the Klamath Basin. It’s a highlight of February and, heaven knows, the Basin needs all of the highlights it can get in February. The bald eagle’s resurgence has been a big one.


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