By the year 2000 Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) and Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) will be extinct.
That is what my 3rd grade teacher told me in 1978. Chemicals were killing the birds including Brown Pelicans, Cormorants and other fishing eating birds. The year 2000 was a long time away and seemingly in a galaxy far, far away and yet for my eight year old, Star Wars-obsessed brain, the notion of extinction was real and saddening to me.
My teacher had oversimplified the problem but I wouldn’t understand that until years later. In fact the ban on harmful chemicals, such as DDT, years earlier had begun the reversal of misfortunate that many of these birds had endured. DDT, an effective chemical pesticide used in the control of malaria-spreading mosquitoes was considered to be the culprit in the decline of many fish-eating bird populations. The chemical bioaccumulates in fatty tissues of animals as it works its way from the base of the food chain, from plant, to invertebrate, to fish, to bird. When the female birds would lay eggs, the DDT inhibited calcium deposition in egg shells resulting in thin eggs that were often crushed by the incubating adults.
After DDT was banned from use in the
in 1972, the chemical slowly worked its way out of the environment, including
wildlife and humans and the affected bird populations began to recover. United States
Thirty four years after my teacher’s apocalyptic prophecy, the sight of an Osprey taking flight over a body of water in
is relatively common. I routinely
have the opportunity to watch Ospreys swoop down over the water and with
spiculed-talons, grab a fish to eat. The spicules are sharp spines that impale
their prey and make it easier for them to catch slippery fish. Nests are
conspicuous accumulations of hefty sticks in trees, on utility poles or on human-made
Osprey nesting platforms. Florida
The population rebound for many of the species affected by DDT and other chemicals is very encouraging. Yet I would say to the children of today, the health of our ecosystems is still in jeopardy and unless we fix drainage issues, stop nutrient overloads and prevent further habitat loss, species such as the Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill and Florida Panther will be extinct by 2030.