Several days of drenching rain made this bald eagle in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands more bedraggled than majestic. Photographer Klaus Nigge captured the image for this month’s issue of National Geographic.
The iconic bird has been the symbol of the United States for more than 200 years. Although decimated by hunters and the use of pesticides in the 20th century, the species has recovered thanks to federal protection and conservation programs. Eight years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed these resilient birds from the endangered species list.
In honor of Bald Eagle Appreciation Day, our editors have compiled their favorite pictures from our archives.
In 1939, Jule Mannix and her husband Dan bought Aguila, a bald eagle that had been grounded by an ice storm. In the hills near their home in Malibu, California, they trained Aguila to hunt snakes and iguana. Jule, wearing a falconry glove, calls Aguila. The 1962 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act outlawed the use of bald eagles for the sport of falconry in the United States.
After being raised indoors at the George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, bald eaglets are transferred to a barn to adjust to cooler temperatures and to interact with other young eagles.
When this photo ran in a 1992 issue of National Geographic, bald eagles were still an endangered species. Conservation programs like this one helped the population recover.
A bald eagle in the Aleutian Islands vocalizes. Although bald eagles were listed as endangered in the contiguous states for much of the 20th century, their numbers in Alaska remained robust.
A group of bald eagles isn’t a flock—it’s a “convocation.” Above, eagles convene in the treetops of British Columbia, Canada.
A bald eagle targets its prey in Kachemak Bay, Alaska.
Although bald eagles eat mostly fish and carrion, many American farmers in the 19th and early 20th century believed they ate livestock. That assumption contributed to the bird’s decline. Farmers shot eagles that came too close to their herds.
A bald eagle flies off with its catch in Kachemak Bay, Alaska.
Bald eagles assemble on a snow-covered breakwater in Kachemak Bay, Alaska
These Alaskan birds appeared in a July 2002 National Geographic article about the resurgence of bald eagles.
Even after the United States passed a law in 1940 making it illegal to kill or harm a bald eagle, numbers continued to decline because of the use of DDT, a pesticide. Thirty years after the U.S. banned the use of DDT, bald eagles were able to make a comeback.