Monday, May 02, 2011

Bald Eagles and Island Foxes

Tani is learning about the bald eagles on the Channel Islands and you can too. 
photo courtesy of Peter Sharp, IWS
Bald eagles went extinct on the Channel Islands following the use of DDT in Southern California. While this chemical insecticide successfully killed insects around homes and on agricultural crops, it stayed in the environment. The chemical ingredients of DDT take many years to disappear or degrade. They were washed from fields and cities into streams, rivers and eventually the ocean. 

When small animals ate the chemicals, they were in turn eaten by larger animals. Seafloor worms were eaten by fish, and the fish were eaten by the bald eagle and the brown pelican. The chemicals accumulated in top predators like theses large birds. The DDT didn't kill the eagles directly, it caused them to be unable to lay eggs with hard shells. When the mother eagle sat on her eggs they cracked. No eaglets were born and the bald eagles disappeared completely from the Channel Islands.

Today DDT is no longer legally used in the United States. Part of the effort to return the Channel Islands to their natural state was to relocate young bald eagles to Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands. These reintroduced bald eagles have grown-up. They are doing well and reproducing.

You can watch the bald eagles live as they raise their chicks through the on-line EAGLECAM

As of May 1, 2011 the chicks are small gray fluffs in the nest.  They are growing up just as the island fox pups are growing up.

Watch a video from the EAGLECAM where an island fox visits the bald eagle nest.

Follow Tani's adventures as an island fox grows up on Twitter or Facebook.