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NATURE: American Eagle

Close-up shot of a bald eagle. Unique to North America, the bald eagle is the continent’s most recognizable aerial predator.
James Donald, ©EBC
Close-up shot of a bald eagle. Unique to North America, the bald eagle is the continent’s most recognizable aerial predator.

Airs Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Interactive Map: Bald Eagle Populations Over the Years

Click around the maps to find out how many bald eagle breeding pairs there were in each of the lower forty-eight states from 1990 to 2000.

Everything about them is big. They are one of nature’s largest raptors, with wings that can span eight feet, and nests that can weigh up to a ton. Unique to North America, the bald eagle is the continent’s most recognizable aerial predator, with a shocking white head, electric yellow beak and penetrating eyes. Yet most people know little about it beyond its striking appearance.

In the 1960s, the bald eagle was on the brink of extinction caused by the pesticide DDT and other human pressures. Following their protection as an endangered species, bald eagles have come roaring back. But even in the best of times, life in the wild for these birds is a surprisingly tough struggle.

From the pristine wilderness of Alaska to the Upper Mississippi River Valley, "American Eagle" goes behind the scenes and into the nest to provide the ultimate bird’s eye view into the private life of an American icon.

This program originally aired in 2008.

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Behind-The-Scenes Exclusive: Nature: American Eagle