Starting in 1976, the New York State Bald Eagle Restoration Project transported 198 nesting bald eagles from the American West and Alaska to areas upstate. The state counted 10 breeding pairs in 1989, and by 2010, 173 pairs and 244 young were reported. Each year, New York’s bald eagles fledge nearly 10 percent more young eagles than the prior year. The bird is still listed as threatened on the New York’s endangered species list.
The bald eagle is perhaps the best-known bird in North America, as it has long been the national bird of the United States. In 1782, the Continental Congress adopted a design for the country’s Great Seal — still used today — featuring a bald eagle clutching 13 arrows and a 13-leaf olive branch in its talons.
Aspiring ornithologists hoping to catch a glimpse of the birds should walk the perimeter of Hempstead Lake, and do so quietly, keeping an eye out for telltale signs of the predator’s presence, such as all the birds in an area fleeing it quickly. Those hoping to see the eagles should do so before winter’s end, when they will likely return to the mainland to fledge. The chance to see bald eagles in Nassau County may not come again very soon.
“There are eagles upstate,” Schellenger said. “But for Long Island, it’s a rare thing.”