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About Bald Eagles: Graphic of an Eagle Landing

Eagle talon graphicInside This Section:

Welcome Back Bald Eagles!
Bald Eagles ( Haliaetus leucocephalus)
in New York City.

Prepared by the Urban Park Rangers

During the past decade the State of New York has been committed to restoring the Hudson River and its estuary. At the same time, New York City has undertaken an equivalent investment in rebuilding the various ecosystems that grace its parks. The re-introduction and restoration of the Bald Eagle to New York City will hopefully prove to be a capstone these combined efforts and a symbolic salute to the events of 2001.

Bald Eagles used to be far more common in the New York City area, and they clearly used to be common near the Hudson River’s estuary. As late as the 1840s there were still 60-70 eagles found on Long Island each winter, and at least one pair still bred on the eastern end as a late as 1930. Closer to the City the last nest was in Westchester County in 1890. However, the major factors behind their decline (i.e., hunting, egg collecting, DDT, and nest site loss) have all been regulated or addressed. Therefore, we believe now that the Hudson River has been significantly cleaned up, and the forested slopes along the river have
been restored, it is time to bring back another keystone species in the
area’s ecology.Eagle graphic

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The BALD EAGLE in Depth

In this area Bald Eagles usually build their nests and lay their eggs by the middle of April. Incubation lasts for approximately 35 days, and both parents share in the incubation and the raising of the young. Eaglets are fed on a diet reflecting their parents’ tastes, and in a broad survey of nests, the remains of fish, ducks, other birds, and small mammals were frequently found. Fish generally constitute between seventy and ninety percent of their diet. In addition, Bald Eagles are well known as carrion feeders, and if they can pirate fish from an Osprey they will do so.Image of a Bald Eagle in flight

Young eagles are usually ready for their first flight by early July, and will remain in an area near their nest perfecting their skills through the summer. By September they will wander further afield, and
by late fall they are clearly independent. As long as hey are able to find food, they will remain in the area. On the other hand if food is not abundant they will wander until a steady food source is found. Currently, each winter eagles are known to gather at the mouth of the Connecticut River, the Housitanic River, along the upper reaches of the Delaware River, near Niagara Falls, and in Jefferson County on the east side of Lake Ontario. We hope the Hudson River will join this list.

Bald Eagles do not mature until they are four or five years old, and
this is easily marked by their acquisition of a white head and tail. On
average their full wingspan is more than four feet across, and they
will attack prey as large as a Canada Goose. Eagles tend to mate for
life, though if one mate perishes they will find another. Their life
span may covermore than thirty years.Eagle Graphic

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Eagle Facts:

  • Adopted as National Symbol on June 20th, 1782.
  • Between 1917 and 1927 41,812 eagles were shot in Alaska.
  • Between 1979 and 1996 the Bald Eagle population
    more than tripled in N.Y. State to over 170.
  • One Bald Eagle nest in Ohio was used for 35 years. The nest
    was 12 feet high and 8 feet across at the rim. It weighed more than two tons.

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