American Eagle
James Donald, Producer, Responds to Viewer Comments

James Donald, one of the producers of American Eagle, responds to some of your comments.

Thank you for all of the comments so far -– I’m touched to see how the film has affected people so deeply. We’re happy that our story of the bald eagle was able to reach such a wide audience. Neil dreamt for years about making a bald eagle film, so the broadcast of this show (and your positive comments) mean the world to him.

I’ve enjoyed reading your observations and look forward to corresponding with those who felt moved to write a comment on this website. I wanted to answer some of the posted questions and to add feedback on some of the postings to date:

  • To answer Ryan’s question, the fish hatchery nest is situated in Decorah, IA. The eagles live on private property though, so no intruding! :-> On a side note, the one-eyed female once caught two trout with one foot. She was a very impressive hunter when she needed to be.
  • Our production team was very moved by Path’s poem. The section of the film involving the death of the one-eyed female and egg was (by far) one of the toughest scenes I’ve ever been a part of editing. My wife was pregnant at the time Neil Rettig reported the deaths to us, so I felt the loss on a deeper level than expected. I was happy though that the male was able to rebuild his family during the next season and that we were able to capture his story for our film.
  • On the other American Eagle comments page, there have been some posts questioning the validity of the impact of DDT on bald eagle eggs. This allows us to delve into the issue a bit further. Be assured, our team thoroughly vetted all of our sources. We were keenly aware of the dissenting opinions regarding the effects of DDT on bald eagles, so we were especially careful and thorough with research on this point. We reviewed a variety of reports published by well-respected journals and took into consideration not only the information in the reports, but also the sources they cited. When considering the evidence appearing to indicate that DDT had little effect on bald eagles or their eggs, the quality of the information or sources did not meet with our strict standards; therefore, we feel confident that our film’s comments about DDT are accurate.
  • I enjoyed looking at Darlene’s photography — especially photos #16 & 19. (The bald Eagle’s wingspan is ridiculously large, and those photos show it off quite well.) Thank you for posting the link to your website. There is nothing like being up close to a bald eagle (although they are not half as scary in person as the harpy eagle — Neil is the caretaker of one on loan from the Peregrine Fund).
  • To re-chime the bell (as rung by Tom), Neil is the best raptor cinematographer I’ve ever worked with. He spent almost two years filming this program and his meticulous attention to detail and his tireless work ethic comes across in the final product. The quality of the footage is extraordinary, considering too that bald eagles are shy by nature and do not like getting close to video cameras. Canon deserves a special shout-out for loaning us a 40X Zoom lens with a built-in stabilizer every once in a while. If you’re interested in picking one up, here’s the link:×14b.html
  • For Sharon V (and to the other bird rehabilitators who wrote in), good luck with your continued success in raptor rehabilitation. Neil and I worked on a separate program titled Raptor Force, which aired last year on NATURE. I’d recommend watching it if you get the chance. It’s definitely a different film than American Eagle in a number of ways but also goes into great detail on raptor flight and hunting techniques.
  • As Deb mentions, there are a ton of webcams that follow nesting pairs of raptors. Bob Anderson maintains a number of such webcams — here is his website:

Thank you again for all of your comments. I look forward to checking in every once in a while to answer any questions you may have about our film. And if you feel like a change of pace, please watch our next film on NATURE, Sunday January 25th at 8pm. It’s all about skunks!


James Donald, Producer

  • Eve M. Tai

    For over a decade I’ve worked for a conservation organization. Every winter we take our supporters out to see a bald eagle congregation on the Skagit River in Washington state. The intense cold, gray and rain make you really appreciate what these birds are up against. Your film captured so well the spirit, the humor (the control-freak nest-builder) and the drama of a bird that we have sometimes forgotten by very virtue of its recovery. Thank you for telling their story and capturing our hearts — all over again!

  • marilyn whitmore

    it was fantastic – i have a 7 year old nephew who loves bald eagles-his room is decorated in them – is there anyway I could obtain a video of this show? – He would be ecstatic? thanks marilyn

  • Steve

    I just started photographing Bald eagles and really enjoyed this show. It helped me understand a lot more than I knew before. I’m lucky enough to be able to see Eagles at almost any time I want this time of year, so I started photographing them. Getting better all the time. Its very satisfying.

  • Lucy

    I’m a home school mom, we’ll be studying the bald eagles this January. I’m so thankful for this wonderful program you’ve put together, it will serve as a preview of what we might see on our trip to the Mississippi. These majestic birds (symbol of our country) are fascinating to study and watch. Thanks PBS.

  • Mike Bayne

    This is a wonderful, wonderful show. It shows us the reality of bald eagles, I think. I photograph eagles every chance I get, which is seldom here in NW Nebraska. Thank you so for the show!

  • Kimberly White

    just wonderful. cried thru whole thing. Have been watching nest cam Norfolk Botanical Gardens sine 3 eaglets were tiny. Azalea has tracking device she’s the Diva . 2 girls 1 boy HE HK HH .Best experience ever. This video is awesome & will share with all eagle lovin friends

  • Tim McFarland

    James, I was deeply moved by this program. I have seen it several times, and pick up something new each time. You, Tom, and the rest of the team captured the eagle’s struggle for survival brilliantly, as well as their incredible beauty and majesty.
    Thank you so much!

  • Art Cooley

    Dear James Donald; This comment below was posted on the eagle website and then shortly removed. On a similar website, there are too many for the same program, Charlie Wurster made the same comment as I did below one of the websites but the error was not corrected in the most recent airing of the program. Best, Art Cooley

    Dear Nature; In your program on bald eagles you indicate that DDT was banned in 1973 after Congress became involved. This is incorrect and has previously been pointed out to you when the program first aired but you have not corrected the mistake. DDT was banned in 1972 resulting from a lawsuit that the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) brought against EPA after winning a similar lawsuit in Wisconsin to ban DDT there. The decision was made not by Congress but William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of EPA. Banning DDT allowed the return of the peregrine falcon, brown pelican, osprey and bald eagle. Tom Cade in his book The Return of the Peregrine Falcon, said, ““Let there be no doubt: the banning of DDT in 1972 was the single most important action taken to ensure the survival and recovery of the Peregrine Falcon in North America. Without it, we would not have celebrated the delisting of the American Peregrine in 1999, for it made possible everything good that happened to the Peregrine in the last decades of the 20th century.” Art Cooley, Founding Trustee, EDF

  • Judy Gager

    We live northeast of Grand Rapids, Michigan and are blessed to live across the road from an eagle nest, built in late 2008. Since then, we have watched the nesting pair in the dead trees from our front room window. We have to walk 100 yds down the drive to view the nest, but we watched all year as they hatched two eaglets and we saw them grow and take their first flights. What a thrill! At times we had 80 or more people standing on the edge of our narrow country road until authorities had to post “no standing, stopping or parking” signs for safety on the hilly road.
    The eagles have remained here all winter, since this end of the tiny marsh lake doesn’t freeze over due to creeks and springs. They are beginning to spruce up the nest in preparation for another nesting season. We have collected some amazing photos courtesy of the professional photographers who have stood for hours to watch and film. We look forward to more exciting times with our new pastime!

  • Judy Gager

    Was so excited to see the program on eagles and compare it to what we see with “our” eagles. We live northeast of Grand Rapids, Michigan and are blessed to live across the road from an eagle nest, built in late 2008. Since then, we have watched the nesting pair in the dead trees from our front room window. We have to walk 100 yds down the drive to view the nest, but we watched all year as they hatched two eaglets and we saw them grow and take their first flights. What a thrill! At times we had 80 or more people standing on the edge of our narrow country road until authorities had to post “no standing, stopping or parking” signs for safety on the hilly road. The eagles have remained here all winter, since this end of the tiny marsh lake doesn’t freeze over due to creeks and springs. They are beginning to spruce up the nest in preparation for another nesting season. We have collected some amazing photos courtesy of the professional photographers who have stood for hours to watch and film. We look forward to more exciting times with our new pastime!

  • Anthea Estergard

    What an outstanding documentary!!! I watched it twice this past winter, and enjoyed watching the eagles’ amazing lives and what they do to prepare for and raise their young. Thank you for such an excellent film.

  • Celestine M Boston

    Thanks for sharing your’e inFO

  • David Brown


    I have, for most of my 63 years, been interested in Photographing this amazing animals. I am interested in learning where and how I can photograph them without adding risk to the already hard life of these stunning creatures. I live near Shasta Lake and there are many Bald Eagles there, but they are very sensitive to people anywhere near them. So far my photo’s are from a bobbing boat of an Eagle perched in a tree near the shore.
    Anyway thanks so much for your wonderful work (film) calling our attention again to our national symbol! Wouldn’t it be something if someday we could all see them where we live as you have shown them.
    Well Done!!

  • Carissa D Vanitzian

    Whatever happened to the bald eagle that was rescued after suffering from lead poisoning? We are shown the eagle being carried away, but no word about whether it was successfully detoxified. Thank you.

  • Linda Mallonee

    The Eagle show was wonderful and helps to give meaning to some of the actions that Wichita followers are seeing. We have a pair of Bald Eagles that appear to be preparing to nest in a most remarkable location. It is situated in an urban commercial area. There is a shopping center on the north side of a small lake that has an island. On The east side is an apartment complex, the south is the Big Arkansas River and the west is a parking lot that is commonly full of humans with tripods, cameras and binoculars. It is quite a show. As egg laying time approaches they really get a lot of attention. Last year the pair appeared and took over an old Great Egret nest. However, apparently she was too young to lay an egg. Folks have been overjoyed to see that the apparent pair has returned and rebuilt the Egret nest once more. The story has been featured in the local newspapers which really increased the crowds, but it doesn’t seem to bother the birds. It is nice to see so many people excited about seeing nature at work.

  • Carolyn

    Incredible! I caught the last half of this program the other evening, and am now watching it again with my husband and daughter. Next time, I’ll be sure my sons are watching as well! We visit the Tomahawk, Wisconsin area every summer and are always anxious to see the resident eagles at the lake we go to. Our first order of business is to try to spot them and see how many babies they have each year. I have so many photos I’ve taken of them over the years – I can’t just seem to stop! Thank you for this beautiful and amazing program!

  • April

    The patience required to make this show is amazing. I loved the story from beginning to end. What a beautiful way to show that even after setbacks and sadness, the eagles (and America) can come back strong to succeed and triumph. Beautiful video of nature and beautiful story. Great job!

  • Roger


    I have to say what great cinemaphotography!!. My mom and I saw our first Bald Eagle Pair in Missouri close
    to Chester, Illinois. We got to observe at least 6 eaglets born and raised over a period of 3 years. First time
    my mother ever saw a Bald Eagle in the wild. She is in her 80s. And my first time also. I got to take several
    photographs. But later on there was a bad storm/tornado that went through and tore the nest and part of the cottonwood tree down. I haven’t been able to locate another nest but they are still in the area.

    Just this Thanksgiving I was walking my dog and looked up at these large birds flying over. It turned out to be
    a pair of Bald Eagles on Thanksgiving Day, 2010. They were circling and sort of locked talons in mid air. Never saw that before except on film. I got a video on my cell phone.

    Thanks Again,
    Roger(Murphysboro, Illinois)

  • Marnie Grow Johnk

    My family lives in Coralville, Iowa, and for the past several weeks, it seems the whole world has been riveted on the eagle cam in Decorah, north of us. “Our” pair, featured in your film, laid 3 eggs this season which hatched earlier this month and we are all amazed at how fast the eaglets are growing. My father in Vermont is watching, as is my sister in Pennsylvania; she’s actually the one who found this video link on the Decorah website and told me I should watch your film! People are so glued to their computers, watching the eagle cam, that a friend told me they’d had an announcement at her office during the hatchings: “Please stop watching the eagles. Our computer system is slowing down because it can’t handle all the live streaming video.” It’s truly captivating!!

  • Lois Hodge

    I was wondering what the string like stuff in the nest is. It looks like mesh wrap or maybe an old fishing net. Would love to know what it is. Have been watching since before all eggs were layed. It is truley fascinating. Keep up the good work. So glad to know that or national symbol is coming back so strong.

  • Katy

    Truly inspiring film. Thank you.
    I would also like to know what happened to the eagle that was captured due to lead poisoning. I am also interested in learning about who was involved with that eagle’s care and hopefully its rehabilitation.
    I come from the Norfolk Botanical Gardens eagle cam. As sad as the death if the Mother eagle has been this year, I have found the Wildlife Center of Va (who took over the care of the eaglets) a real bonus to learn about.

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  • jilbab

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  • James Donald

    I can see many people have written in since my last response. So, very quickly:

    - The eagle that suffered from lead poisoning was successfully released back into the wild. It was rehabilitated to 100% health by Marge Gibson of the Raptor Education Group in Antigo, Wisconsin.

    - This year, the Decorah Bald Eagle Cam website has received tremendous international attention. Bob Anderson continues to feed images and footage from the nest to the public. As of the end of November 2011, the website had exceeded 211 million views from over 186 countries. The nesting pair have successfully raised a number of offspring, all of which have made their way into the wild. Bob plans on upgrading his equipment to HD streaming capabilities in short order, which may make for a good sequel! :->

    - I live and work in Massachusetts. For the first time in over a decade, I was driving to work one day and saw a bald eagle fly overhead. Incredible!

    Thanks to everyone for writing in to this blog. – James Donald, Producer, American Eagle

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  • Erich von Staats

    I learned about this program VIA the Decorah Eagles live stream. The show was great but all the moderators say no one knows what happened to the one-eyed female. Did you take some creative freedom finding her in the movie. There are 223 million view at the sight wondering. Thanks Great film!!!
    Erich von Staats

  • Liz Gussler

    My friend located a nest and pair this winter in Union County Ohio.. They are on Honda property so No INTRUDERS :) ..No webcam either and we watch them from quite a distance witch is fine with us!!So I have been researching all the Eagle info I can.. They are so amazing!!!!RThats how I found the Iowa Eagles webcam, your special and etc!!American Eaglea was awesoem and so glad to hear the piosoned bird was rehiblitated!!!! Great news…I cried when I found out the one eyed female died , she was amazing.. Take care and thanks for sharing this!!

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