About Eagle Days Along the Fox River
Eagle Day along the Fox River celebrates the recovery of the American Bald Eagle and the improved health of Wisconsin’s Fox River and its communities.
The American Bald Eagle is a symbol of the improved health of the Fox River and its communities (Fox Cities)*, and its recovery is the reason for celebrating “Eagle Days along the Fox River.” This recovery affects the health of the Fox River’s citizens, tourism, job creation and appreciation of our history. Our goal is to remind residents and visitors to be ever mindful of keeping it that way through science, research and maintenance by citizen volunteer and governmental efforts.
EAGLES HISTORY ALONG THE FOX RIVER
Since the late 1980’s wintering and nesting bald eagles have returned to the Fox Cities* area. Today, this region has become a popular destination for winter eagle viewing. Given the fact that this species was classified as endangered both in Wisconsin and nationally in the lower 48 states, its return to prior numbers is a significant event.
When the American Bald Eagle was adopted as our national symbol in 1782 there were more than 100,000 nesting pairs of eagles in the country. Due to contaminants like DDT, PCB’s and other heavy metals polluting the Fox River and other waters of the continental United States, the Bald Eagle populations declined drastically. These contaminants entered the eagles’ food supply causing populations of the birds to drop to only 487 nesting pairs in the continental United States. Wisconsin’s lowest breeding population was 107 nesting pairs in 1974.
American Bald Eagle recovery had its roots in Wisconsin with the banning of DDT in 1970, triggering a national ban in 1972. Wisconsin through its Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) assisted the national recovery by supplying eaglets to other states. Once endangered, American Bald Eagles are now listed as a “Special Concern Species” both in Wisconsin and nationally. This focus provides effort to prevent future declines.
Officially, the first wintering eagle was observed along the Fox River in 1982 during a WDNR mid-winter waterfowl survey. The first nesting pair occurred in 1987 on private land east of 1000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna. A full account of their comeback in the Kaukauna area can be found here. Today the Fox Cities* are home to hundreds of wintering American Bald Eagles feeding and roosting along the Fox River. During late winter to early spring, at least a half-dozen pairs nest within the Fox Cities*.
The American Bald Eagles’ success along the Fox River relates to improved habitat, open water in winter, and the removal and capping of contaminants within the river. Our abundance of eagles symbolizes good health and quality of life along the Fox River. This is our reason for celebrating “Eagle Days Along the Fox River!”
*Fox Cities: Neenah, Menasha, Appleton, Kimberly, Little Chute, Combined Locks, Kaukauna, Wrightstown, Town of Neenah, Fox Crossing, Town of Menasha, Town of Grand Chute, Town of Greenville, Town of Buchanan, Town of Kaukauna, Town of Harrison and Village of Harrison