Bald Eagles Are Back—in New York City

A breeding pair of the once-endangered raptors return to nest in Gotham for the first time in a century.

(Photo: Gary Cameron/Getty Images)

Feb 4, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

Who says New York isn’t a good place to raise kids? Even bald eagles are going for it.

According to Audubon, a tugboat captain saw a pair of bald eagles building a nest in early January on an uninhabited island in New York's harbor, just off the borough of Staten Island.

The tug captain “watched the pair shuttle nest material to the top of an unused dock,” according to the report.

It’s understandable that bald eagles would want to stay near the Hudson River and its ample supply of fish. But settling in such a densely populated city—even in a relatively quiet part of town—is unusual for the species.

The most likely reason is that the region’s bald eagle population has grown big enough to push the birds beyond rural or wild areas.

In other words, they’re grappling with the same shortage of good housing that obsesses the average Gotham resident.

New York Bay’s improving water quality might have sweetened the deal too. Harbor seals and humpback whales are also making comebacks after decades of absence.

New York hosts around 170 pairs of nesting eagles statewide and hundreds more unattached visitors during the winter, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Most are descended from eagles brought in from other states in the 1970s and 1980s to help restore the population from its low point of just one nesting pair in 1960. That was the era when the species was nearing extinction from habitat loss and DDT contamination.

“The birds are unlikely to become the next tourist attraction, though,” Audubon reported. “New York State discourages revealing the exact locations of nests, to protect against poachers and crowds that might spook them.”