BEMIDJI-Bald eagles aren't only a symbol of the United States, but a symbol of Bemidji's continued efforts to support conservation of the local eagle population.

Those efforts were celebrated on Saturday with Bemidji's third annual Bird City Celebration at Paul Bunyan Park. A Bird City distinction is given to recognize communities that have pride in their natural environment and are working to create best practices that will allow birds to thrive. Bemidji gained the title of "Bird City" three years ago.

"What they are looking for is communities that can show they are doing a whole range of practices that are good for birds and people one way or another," said Peter Buesseler President of the Minnesota Headwaters Audubon Society.

The Audubon Bird City Minnesota program requirements focus on improving and protecting habitat, reducing threats and engaging the public in outdoor activities. The ceremony was one of many events Saturday to celebrate National American Eagle Day, which was Thursday. Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht declared Saturday, June 22, as Eagle John Mathisen Day in Bemidji to recognize Mathisen for all his work in helping to restore the area eagle population.

The opening proclamation was given by Buesseler. He explained some of the ways Bemidji has been working to help birds and informed the crowd of all the activities that they could participate in during the day.

His announcements were followed by a historical display and discussion by Mathisen, retired U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist. Mathisen became nationally recognized for his efforts to save the nesting eagle population in the Chippewa National Forest.

Mathisen said he and his colleagues work with the eagles has been valuable not only for the birds, but also for the college students who studied alongside them, as well as school children when they taught them about the importance of eagle preservation.

"Study the eagle, you can apply that to a lot of other things in nature, you have to find their value that they are worth something," Mathisen said. "That's what I try to impress upon kids."

Activities were set up along the waterfront including raffles, free wristbands, a kids craft tent and the opportunity to take a picture with either a red tailed hawk or a turkey vulture. The MHAS, The Nature Connection and Audubon Bird City Minnesota included events for all ages.

Events Saturday were also held at Lake Bemidji State Park, Norway Beach Campground and the Neilson Spearhead Center.

Natalie Hilden is the Pioneer’s summer reporting intern. Originally from Nevis, she is a senior at South Dakota State University.