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New York City’s celebrity Bald Eagles make history again

One of Staten Island's Bald Eagles, a Juvenile, takes flight.
Juvenile Bald Eagle photographed on Staten Island, New York, August 22, 2016, by Lawrence Pugliares.

Joe Trezza, author of our October 2016 cover story about the first Bald Eagles to nest in New York City in a century, sent this update:

Nature works on its own time. That’s part of the beauty of it and part of the reason publishing it can present so many challenges. Nature doesn’t wait for anyone, and it doesn’t rush either.

Bald Eagles made the cover of BirdWatching Magazine, October 2016.
BirdWatching Magazine, October 2016, Bald Eagle by wildphoto3/Shutterstock, Costa’s Hummingbird (inset) by Carol Warner.

It’s with this as a backdrop that we can report some excellent news regarding Staten Island’s Bald Eagles, which grace the cover of the October 2016 issue of BirdWatching.

I’ll admit, my story’s of Vito and Linda ended in a bit of ambiguity: “Now residents of our country’s largest, most spectacular city have a front-row seat as our country’s symbol takes the stage,” I wrote. “The both of them blessed with a second chance to try again.”

I wrote this because at press time, that’s all we knew the birds were doing. Trying again. To what success was anyone’s guess.

But now it appears they’ve succeeded, indeed. Two juvenile eagles have been seen interacting with Staten Island’s adult eagles since the beginning of August. One bird has been seen taking food from the beak of an adult, communicating with adults and following them around.

Bald Eagle breadcrumbs

It doesn’t take much of a breadcrumb trail to lead to the logical conclusion. In rare cases, Bald Eagles can adopt birds of other species but typically don’t start sharing food with strange juveniles intruding on their territory. In all likelihood, at least one juvenile bird was born on Staten Island this summer, making it New York City’s first naturally reared Bald Eagle chick since at least 1914.

The birders here would be overjoyed by that fact — if they could just get themselves to be. But the juvenile eagles brought a bittersweet feeling among Staten Island birders afflicted with the burdensome need for absolute certainty. See, the eagles abandoned the nest they used last summer, relocating to an unknown location this summer while they continued to be seen daily over the same Staten Island territory.

No new nest was found, not by birders, photographers, Department of Environmental Conservation (state) rangers, or Parks Department (city) workers. Which in itself isn’t really indicative of anything. The eagles hunt a territory of at least six miles of shoreline and 16 square miles of woods and marsh — much of it inaccessible. Eagles can nest as high as 115 feet off the ground. And it was nobody’s specific job to monitor the eagles. Even the Department of Environmental Conservation, whose land they typically frequent, employs just one ranger to monitor all 13 DEC sites on Staten Island, a borough of 58 square miles.

Staten Island’s birding faction remains somewhat split on speculation of where the juvenile birds came from, with the detractors citing the availability of only circumstantial evidence.

The birds’ supporters believe what their eyes and logic tells them. At least one juvenile bird has become as conspicuous as the adults. Last week, he spent a half hour at Vito’s favorite pond, basking in the sun like a vulture, with its wings spread. The adult birds do not chase it away. They invite it to their branch, lead it over the water, and feed it from the mouth.

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Meanwhile, eagle lovers here scramble to find a nest, high in the trees, full of twigs and peace of mind. Until then, a compromise consensus has been reached: probable breeding, and all the more reason to search harder next year. — Joe Trezza

Joe Trezza is a writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Esquire, and the Miami Herald. He currently covers baseball for MLB.com and is a naturalist on Staten Island. He lives in New York City.

Lawrence Pugliares is a New York City native and long-time resident of Staten Island. His photos of eagles appear in our October 2016 issue. You can view his photo album Staten Island Bald Eagles on Flickr.

Find BirdWatching on newsstands!

Our October 2016 issue, containing Joe Trezza’s article about the first Bald Eagles to nest in New York City in a century, will go on sale at Barnes & Noble and elsewhere on September 6.

Pictures of the Staten Island Bald Eagles.

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See reader photos of Bald Eagles.

 

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