The national bird is no longer threatened with extinction, an achievement the Interior Department celebrated today by letting a bald eagle frolic in the skies above the Jefferson Memorial. Thanks in large part to conservation laws, the number of nesting pairs has grown more than 20-fold since 1963; the bird had been threatened (in less peril than endangered) since 1995.
Habitat destruction, pesticides, and hunters drove the bald eagle to the brink of extinction before the government intervened. Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne presided at today's ceremony, but the star of the airshow was Challenger, a 19-year-old eagle whose handler spoke for him: "Challenger would probably say it's great to be here—where's the trout?" (Read more conservation stories.)