Conservation Success Stories: Part 2
Could you imagine the United States of America without our national bird? That almost happened! In the 1970s, Texas had only 4 nesting pairs because of the pesticide DDT, which made egg shells so thin that mama birds accidentally cracked them when they sat on nests. Thankfully, DDT became against the law in 1972. (A "pesticide" is a chemical used to kill bugs. DDT was used on crops to kill bugs so vegetables could grow. Today, they use different chemicals instead.)
Today we have about 200 pairs of bald eagles nesting in Texas. Yippee!
- Eagles prefer to build nests in trees at least 75 feet high.
- Bald eagles use the same nest every year, returning to it with the same mate again and again.
- These birds can see an amazing 1 ½ miles in the distance! Now that’s an "eagle eye!"
In the 1970s, Texas had less than 100 of these birds, mostly because of the pesticide DDT. DDT did the same thing to brown pelican egg shells that it did to bald eagles' egg shells – it made them so thin that they often cracked before the babies could be born.
Conservationists created special nesting places on the islands off the Texas coast so these winged wonders would have safe places to have families. Now they no longer appear on the endangered species list.
- Brown pelicans dive head first, webbed feet last, into the water for a fish. No other pelican species dives like these guys!
- Its big bill (called a "pouch") can hold about 3 gallons of food and water!
- Even with a wingspan of up to 6 feet (that's a long as a tall man!) these are the smallest of the world's pelican species.
Once upon a time, alligator skin made a popular material for boots and other items. That, and its tasty meat, put the largest reptile in North America in danger of extinction. In 1967, American alligators officially became an endangered species. But thanks to the dedication of many people, their status changed in 1987 to threatened instead.
- Alligators cannot move their tongues and must swallow by raising their heads.
- As their teeth wear down, alligators grow new ones. They can grow 3,000 teeth in a lifetime!
- Their name comes from the Spanish words "el lagarto" which means "the lizard."