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Raptors in the park: Bald eagles take up residence on Long Island

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Bald eagles are not common sights on Long Island, however, it looks as though three have taken up residence at Hempstead Lake State Park near Rockville Centre this winter. The trio, two adults and a juvenile (possibly their offspring) have been spotted (ironically near Eagle Avenue) since November according to local Audubon Society research chairman Joe Grupp.

This is particularly significant because once a mating pair chooses a nesting area, they generally remain there for the rest of their lives (which can be as long as 30 years in the wild). In addition, the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation reports that the nests are “reused and added to (decorated) each year, often becoming eight or more feet deep, six feet across, and weighing hundreds of pounds.”
“There are a lot of big trees here and the eagles like to roost in them,” added 86-year old Sy Schiff of Baldwin, who says he has been watching birds here since 1942.

The bald eagle population in New York has been growing steadily since 1976, when the state began its Eagle Restoration Project in an attempt to reestablish a breeding population through hacking (hand rearing to independence) after the use of DDT nearly wiped them out. Beginning that year 198 nestling bald eagles were collected (most from Alaska), transported and released here during a 13-year period. By 2010, the DEC reported that New York had 173 breeding pairs and 244 chicks.

For more information, or to report a bald eagle sighting, readers can contact the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Wildlife Diversity Unit at 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233 518 402-8920.

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