Animal Tracks | by Dan Albert
Walking on the Kennebec River Rail Trail offers views of many species of animals, one of which is the Bald Eagle. The area supports a healthy population of the bird which has brown plumage until it reaches adulthood at about five years old. The adult birds sport a recognizable white head and tail. An adult bird has a wingspan of up to seven feet and may weigh up to fourteen pounds. Adult pairs keep the same mating partner for life and will find another if their mate dies. The Bald Eagle often has a lifespan up to twenty years.
The population of eagles in the 1700's was estimated at about half a million birds but declined to a level of about 500 mating pairs. The common use of certain chemicals such as DDT as a pesticide after WW2 polluted some of the food sources of the Bald Eagle. The ingestion of the DDT through its food caused the egg shells of the Eagle often to be too thin and would be crushed by the incubating adult bird.
Another cause of death for Bald Eagle is through lead poisoning. The use of lead birdshot for hunting and lead sinkers for fishing contributed to the deaths of our majestic national symbol.
Fortunately, through environmental programs and protective policies, the Kennebec River has seen a transformation in recent decades. The Bald Eagle now thrives in the area and may be viewed often while walking on the Kennebec River Rail Trail.