Why do some Bald Eagles have ‘wing bling’?

If you watch the West End eagles on Santa Catalina Island, you will have noticed that there are tags on their wings similar to the tags on the wings of the California Condors.

It all goes back to DDT and the near extinction of the Ospreys, Bald Eagles, and other birds from the United States. Sea life has been impacted and so have humans. After World War II DDT was used to eradicate for mosquitoes in the US. Various areas received high amounts of this toxin. It wasn’t just the spraying but also the illegal dumping of hundreds of thousands of tonnes that has caused harm. Indeed, the waters off Catalina Island, for one, became a dumping ground for DDT.

In 2020, an article appeared in the Los Angeles Times about the finding of the rusting barrels of toxins leaking near Catalina Island. (The scientists were looking for methane).

The author says, “As many as half a million of these barrels could still be underwater right now, according to interviews and a Times review of historical records, manifests and undigitized research. From 1947 to 1982, the nation’s largest manufacturer of DDT — a pesticide so powerful that it poisoned birds and fish — was based in Los Angeles.”

“DDT is so stable it can take generations to break down. It doesn’t really dissolve in water but stores easily in fat. Compounding these problems is what scientists today call “biomagnification”: the toxin accumulating in the tissues of animals in greater and greater concentrations as it moves up the food chain.” The birds at the top of the food chain, often referred to as the canaries in the coal mine are the Ospreys who eat the fish and the Bald Eagles.

This is a fantastic read. I urge you to take the time so that when you hear about the impacts of DDT you will understand the history and the harm.


In 1980, there was a reintroduction programme of Bald Eagles into the Santa Catalina and San Clemente Islands. Even until 2001, the eggs were removed and fostered and the chicks banded. Between 1980-86, 33 Bald Eagles were released on Santa Catalina. These birds grew to adulthood even breeding but due to the DDE levels, the eggshell thickness was still compromised. You might recall that Jackie and Shadow at Big Bear have problems with thin eggshells today. Big Bear Lake was heavily sprayed with DDT and it is residual in the soil. The tagging program can be seen with the tags on Thunder and Akacheta. Their chicks, should they hatch and survive, will be banded as part of the continuing study.


From the findings of scientists now, the number of barrels of DDT in the waters of this area rusting and leaking are growing. In April of 2021, more were found.


For those who would like to go back to the 1970s when the alarms were being sounded by various individuals including Rachel Carson, a good read is The Silent Spring. I would hope that most local libraries would have copies. As you can see, the storage and long life of DDT and the fact that it does not break down in water, is a continuing concern for all the wildlife and humans around the Santa Catalina Island which is now controlled by the US Navy.

In other Bird World News, there was a major storm going across the Eyre Peninsula, home to Port Lincoln and Ervie. The camera has been off line for some time. There were several nests waiting for food deliveries this morning including the KNF nest, home to Kincaid, in Louisiana.

It was wet at the NEFlorida Nest but, because the chicks are younger, there are still piles of fish in the pantry.

Have you noticed that as the nestlings get older the amount of prey on the nest declines? A small fish was delivered to SWFlorida E19 and E20 but that nest is empty of prey also. No worries. It is something to notice as the eaglets develop.

Thank you for joining me today. It is a beautiful morning -1 on the Canadian Prairies. More snow is due to start mid-afternoon. I am going to go out to try and see some birds! The Snowy Owls are still eluding me! Take care everyone. See you soon.

Thank you to Explore.org, NEFlorida Bald Eagle Cam, and the AEF and the KNF for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots.


  1. Linda Kontol says:

    Thanks Mary Ann for all the updates and photos. It seems The eagles
    And eaglets still look wet at the nest if Hanny and Samson. I hope they will dry out today. We are in our way to Florida but they are far away still. It is so sad about the DDT and I never k ew this until I started watching the eagles on the Islands there. Also there uscsnn my other nest I follow that the mother eagles eggs break will easy. It’s so sad.
    Have a good day Mary Ann visiting the birds and we look forward to hearing from you again soon.
    Thank you,

    1. Have a lovely time in Florida. Yes, it is very sad. There are so many dangers but whoever allowed the burial of those barrels of DDT – well, sadly, they have just continued the problem til when…forever? Jackie and Shadow have issues at Big Bear and all along the cost I understand there are problems in the wild. Love to hear from you. Always my pleasure.

  2. Thank you for this one also, Mary Ann. I read Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” back in the late 60s and still have a copy of it. I never dreamed that after 50+ years we would still be dealing with the poisons people were using back then. It is catastrophic to know there are barrels of DDT still around, buried in our oceans. That definitely does not bode well (along with all the other poisonous contaminants that humans have deposited into the environment). Mother Nature weeps.

    Thank you again, Mary Ann, for all you do to raise our consciousness and to remind us of our responsibility — to at least send out prayers if nothing else.

    1. Thank you, Betty. It is definitely not my pleasure to bring up the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of barrels of DDT rusted and leaking in the waters off the coast of California. Thankfully people like Rachel Carson screamed loud enough to get it banned but like you said, it is hard to imagine that we are still dealing with it ——- and will be for eons to come. In my first trip to India, there were ants all over the walls of my room. They were not bothering me but a man came in with a small paper bag full of ‘white powder’ and put it all along the joint of the wall and the floor. He had no gloves, no mask. Turns out it was DDT – that was 1988. I left. Scary.

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