The People's Tribune

Louisiana Museum Offers Eagle Presentation

Last Program In Summer Series Will Feature Care For Animals

The Louisiana Area Historical Museum’s program “for kids of all ages” on June 21 featured Karen Armstrong, who works for the Missouri Department of Conservation and is stationed in Kirksville.

Her program on Wednesday, June 21 was about Bald Eagles and other local raptors. She pointed out to the large audience of youth and adults the many features that make the eagle successful in hunting. Bald Eagles are at the top of the food chain and they serve as indicators of our environmental health. Back in the 1800’s they became an endangered species, as their numbers had declined to where they were living only in Canada, Alaska, the Great Lake states, and the Pacific Northwest. In Missouri they were only seen in the Bootheel of the state. One of the main reasons for the decline in number was DDT, a pesticide that farmers used for controlling pests on their crops. The runoff from the fields went into the waterways where fish absorbed the DDT, then eagles ate the fish and the chemical affected the quality of their eggs. Another cause was human intervention as we cleared more forests and took over the major waterways for our own uses.

Fortunately in 1972 DDT was discontinued and the “Eagle Protection Act” was adopted. Armstrong explained to the guests that it is illegal to own any part of an eagle, even a feather. She cautioned the audience not to collect even an eagle feather. Fortunately the Bald Eagles are no longer considered endangered but are labeled a “species of concern.” Missouri now has approximately 285 eagle nests, partly due to a partnership between the Missouri Department of Conservation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Armstrong amazed the group with some incredible facts, such as eagles returning to the same nest each year and adding to it to where they sometimes end up with gigantic nests 10 feet across and 20 feet deep and weighing 2 tons! In captivity the Bald Eagle can live 50 years though in their natural habitat they usually live only 30 years.

In 1782 the Bald Eagle became the symbol of the United States as they represented the qualities of strength and freedom. Armstrong explained that the word “bald” comes from England and is a word meaning white. Ben Franklin had suggested using the wild turkey as our nation’s symbol, but the attendees agreed that the choice of the eagle is preferable.

One of the amazing facts about the Great Horned Owl is that it can see fish under water one mile away. Their eyes are as large as those of a human, despite their small bodies. The bridge over their eyes give them shade to help with better vision and the bridge also helps protect the eyes while flying. Armstrong had a stuffed Sharp-shinned Hawk on display. It is the smallest hawk in North America and a daring, acrobatic flier. These raptors have distinctive proportions: long legs, short wings, and very long tails, which they use for navigating their deep-woods homes at top speed in pursuit of songbirds and mice.

The next program, the last of the annual June series of programs, will be Wednesday, June 28 at 1:00 presented by the Louisiana Area Historical Museum, 304 Georgia Street in Louisiana. It will feature Louisiana veterinarian assistants from the office of Dr. Patti Blackmore, Meaghan Grote and Sarah Watts, who will share information about safety around animals. Everyone is invited to this free presentation.

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