National Geographic : 1992 Nov
WITH A SUBLIME AIR, an adult bald eagle sweeps over a young ster, which presents its talons as if grasping for food. Two other adults stay close, ready to pirate prey if given a chance. Heart ened by similar displays across the Southeast, where a steady supply of released birds now approaches breeding age, Sher rod and his staff ended their eagle-release program this year. They have already begun field work on their next project, a study of songbird declines in prairie habitat and the human role in that ecosystem. Beyond their optimism for the eagles lies another reason for stopping the releases. "It's an expensive process, even with a species as glamorous as our national bird," Sherrod declares, noting that the cen ter's $750,000 annual budget comes primarily from private donations. Riding a wingspan of six feet or more, the bald eagle has risen to icon status, symbol of wilder ness and freedom. Native to North America, it has benefited from a concerted conservation effort, and its numbers have grown impressively, despite the continuing threats of illegal shooting, use of some pesticides, and especially the loss of its wetlands habitat. The full recovery of the bald eagle is a prospect years away but now at least in sight.