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American Bald Eagles Along the Hudson River

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Once Endangered, the Bald Eagle is Flourishing in New York State

American Bald Eagles and Their Resurgence Along the Hudson River

A Bald EagleSpotting an American Bald Eagle soaring through the skies might be an easier sight to see in upstate New York, than traveling to places like Yellowstone National State Park, where you might be lucky to see just one.

Recently, a resident of Troy posted a picture they had taken of a young Bald Eagle on Flickr and a resident of Cohoes Falls posted a video of an eagle perched on a tree along the Hudson River on YouTube.

Claiming to be the state’s ‘Bald Eagle capital,’ Narrowsburg, New York is located on the Pennsylvania border in southeastern New York.  They host the annual EagleFest where eagles nest along the Delaware River.

Town officials cancelled their display of fireworks this past Fourth of July because as The Times-Herald Record of Middletown reported, some baby eagles left their nest, possibly scared by the pyrotechnics.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department claims the fire department could be liable for thousands of dollars in fines if the eagles are harmed.

The reintroduction of the American Bald Eagle is a true success story. Peter Nye, who retired as head of the endangered-species unit of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, brought the majestic raptors back from the brink of extinction in the late 70s.

“But there’s not much I can do for the bald eagles at this point. We’re over 220 nesting pairs [in the state] at last count,” Nye said in an interview with the Adirondack Explorer“That makes me proud as anything I’ve done in my life. I feel pretty good that eagles are going to be fine in the short term. My big concern is that in twenty, thirty, or forty years, in the places where eagles are breeding and doing well now, they might no longer be able to live and thrive there because we’ll have significantly altered the environment through human disturbance.”

In 1976, only one breeding pair of the Bald Eagle was left in the state. Human activity not only disrupted eagle habitat but DDT and other contaminates. Harsh chemicals had been built inside of their bodies and caused the thinning of their eggshells until none of the hatchlings were able to survive incubation.

A Bald Eagle at EagleFestWhat began as a dramatic turnaround for our national symbol was the ban on DDT and the initiation of the Endangered Species program.

Nye and a group of biologists trekked through the wilds of Alaska to collect nestling bald eagles. They brought the eaglets back here to suitable habitats in New York.  They took care of them until the birds became accustomed to their new environment and released them when they were able to fly.

In 1989, biologists had established 10 breeding pairs. In 2006, NYS DEC reported 112 pairs of Bald Eagles, which represents a 20 percent jump over the previous year. In 2008, NYS DEC reported 145 pairs of Bald Eagles nesting.

Nye climbed the tops of 100-foot white pines in the Adirondacks. He survived swarms of thousands of black flies, dive-bombs by adult birds; he endured the stench of fish rotting under the hot sun in nests.

“They’re terrific scavengers. I’ve found tennis balls, balloons, lots and lots of lures and fishing tackle, and the remains of muskrats, snacks and birds,” Nye said. “I found the pink panties, size large, in a nest in Alaska. I inscribed them with the date, site and nest number and hung them on the wall of my office. To my knowledge, Charles Broley, the father of eagle studies, and I are the only two people on earth who have ever found a pair of women’s pink panties in an eagle nest.”

You’ll know when you’ve seen a Bald Eagle: the white head, large tail and the wingspan close to six to seven feet long is hard not to miss. The DEC says to avoid mistaking a turkey vulture for an eagle, watch for the V-shape of vultures’ wings in flight.  Eagles fly with their wings held out straight. You can also recognize an eagle by curved feet and clawed feet.

For more information about sighting a Bald Eagle in New York visit www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9378.html.

Diana Denner is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

Short URL: http://thefreegeorge.com/thefreegeorge/?p=17496

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