Bald Eagles, longtime American symbols of strength and independence, are now fighting for their very survival in Canada due to their main food source, chum salmon, being scarce due to pollution and over fishing. Chum salmon are salmon which after fighting the river currents to return to the streams when where they were born, are now left to die after spawning. The eagles, which feed on these dead or dying fish that are rich in nutrients, have become some weak and emaciated from lack of food they some of them have literally fallen from the sky. Some of the birds, due to not being able to find food in the natural habitats, have had no alternative other than foraging for food in municipal dumps and landfills, often resulting in being poisoned by chemicals thrown into the dumps or by poisons used to kill rats and other vermin.
“If they can’t find the carrion (meat), they go to the dump, and the problem with the dump … is you get a lot of poisoning,” said Robin Campbell from the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington, in an interview with The Province, a prominent British Colombian news source.
The sad tale of starving eagles is just one of other not so pleasant accounts of how birds of prey, and scavengers like vultures are falling into hard times due to current environmental realities. In the Middle East this is becoming increasingly so, due to poisoning of the birds’ natural prey by pesticides, destruction of natural habitats, and even by hunting.
In Turkey alone, it was reported recently that up to 70% of that country’s bird population is threatened with extinction, including several species of raptors.
Imperial eagle. A regal bird in its own right.
One of these species, the Imperial Eagle is every bit as regal as it’s North American counterpart, but is also threatened from loss of natural habitat and food sources.
Israeli research into finding ways to improve the lot of its declining population of vultures even resulted in one of them, which had strayed off its usual migratory path, being caught in Saudi Arabia and accused of being part of a “Zionest spy plot”, due to the tracking device attached to it.
Although there are projects to try to restore populations of raptors, such as a joint one being carried between Iran and Qatar, it appears that even these efforts are aimed primarily in insuring that there will be adequate populations of raptors for use in hunting sports.
Whether it’s loss of salmon for bald eagles, or rodents and pigeons for falcons and hawks in Middle Eastern countries, the overall outlook does not look good, and is probably going to get even worse.
Read more on issues affecting raptors and other Middle Eastern birds: