Bald Eagle Returns to Philadelphia after 200 Years
PHILADELPHIA -- America's national emblem is nesting in Philadelphia for the first time in more than 200 years but it may be on a collision course with developers.
A pair of bald eagles, a species that has recovered from the brink of extinction in the last 40 years, has built a nest in a former Navy yard on the south side of Philadelphia, the sixth-largest U.S. city and where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were written.
"They have eggs in the nest and you can tell they are incubating by their behavior," said Doug Gross, an endangered bird specialist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The birds' survival may be threatened by plans for a $150 million produce market and a new marine terminal in the Navy yard, and by an expected move to lessen the official protection of the eagles because of their strong rebound.
The state agency checked official records of breeding bald eagles in Philadelphia and was unable to find any over the last two centuries, said Jerry Feaser, a spokesman.
The bald eagle, depicted on the Great Seal of the United States, was almost wiped out by the pesticide DDT and by habitat loss in the mid-20th Century but has come back thanks to federal protections and improved water quality.
The U.S. population has grown to about 7,000 pairs from a low of 487 in 1963, the service says. In Pennsylvania, there were 117 nesting pairs in 2006, up from two or three in the early 1970s, Gross said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced it will decide whether to remove the bald eagle from the federal list of threatened and endangered species by June 29.
The appearance of breeding bald eagles in the midst of an urban area like Philadelphia is an exciting development and particularly welcome in a city so important to early U.S. history, Gross said.
"This national symbol is now nesting in what used to be the capital of the United States," Gross said.