Gov. Jack Markell has proclaimed June 20 as American Eagle Day in Delaware.

Gov. Jack Markell has proclaimed June 20 as American Eagle Day in Delaware.

The day is concurrent with a national day of celebrating the bald eagle as an emblem of American freedom and independence, and for its dramatic recovery starting in the late 20th century from the brink of extinction.

The eagle’s comeback, Markell noted in his proclamation of American Eagle Day in Delaware, “was largely accomplished due to the vigilant efforts of numerous caring agencies, corporations, organizations and citizens.”

The governor asked Delawareans to celebrate the day by reflecting on the bald eagle’s symbolism and survival, especially as they resonate in the First State.

“The bald eagle’s recovery is a conservation success story resulting from government, conservation organization and public commitment and stewardship, and adds a welcome sense of wildness to the Delaware outdoor experience,” said DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Director David Saveikis.

As recently as 25 years ago, spotting a bald eagle in Delaware was a rare event. In 1987, the Division of Fish & Wildlife monitored just four nests in the state. Though two of those four nests failed; the remaining two produced four chicks. This became the start of the eagle’s flight back to what appears to be enduring prosperity in Delaware. During the 2016 nesting season, Fish & Wildlife biologists documented 71 bald eagle pairs with approximately 72 chicks.

The nonprofit American Eagle Foundation, which sponsors the American Eagle Day celebration, notes that “for over 230 years, the bald eagle has served as the living symbol of all that America stands for: freedom, courage, strength, spirit, independence and excellence” and that “on June 20, 1782, this nation's founding fathers placed this majestic creature, which is unique to North America, at the center of the Great Seal of the United States.”

According to the foundation, “the U.S. once almost lost this precious national treasure due to its own mistakes and neglect. Habitat destruction, illegal shootings and the use of DDT caused the bald eagle population to drop to less than 500 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states in the early 1960s.”

Today there are an estimated 14,000 to 15,000 bald eagle pairs in the contiguous U.S., and the bald eagle was removed from federal Endangered Species Act protection in 2007. In 2013, the bald eagle was removed from Delaware’s Endangered Species List.

American Eagle Day was first recognized nationally in 1995 by President Bill Clinton. Since then, governors from over 45 states including Delaware have recognized the day. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have unanimously passed several resolutions for American Eagle Day since 2007.

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