Historically, American Bald Eagles were plentiful along major river systems and coastal areas throughout eastern Virginia. Here they fed from bountiful shallows of a vast tidal system and prospered. However, habitat loss associated with human settlement, and later the use of persistent pesticides such as DDT for crop management, resulted in a dramatic decline in the population. By the late 1960’s most breeding populations had been decimated by eggshell thinning and associated low productivity. Concern for these populations prompted the elevation of the bald eagle to endangered status and led to a national effort to restore historic populations. In Virginia, the breeding population has steadily increased from an estimated low of 32 breeding pairs in the late 1960’s to 151 pairs in 1993, and today to nearly 700 pairs.
In recent years, a small part of the bald eagle breeding population has begun to move into urban areas, having become habituated to all our human activites and sounds. The bald eagle pair at Norfolk Botanical Garden are an example of this change in their behavior. The Norfolk Botanical Garden bald eagle pair have been extraordinarily productive – 19 eaglets in eight years at NBG and one eaglet at their prior nest. Only one other pair in Virginia are known to have been as productive. This lady leaves all of us with a legacy that will carry on for many years into the future.