Long Island Baby Eagles Taking Wing for Independence Day
SHELTER ISLAND, N.Y. - Two baby bald eagles are beginning to "take wing" on Long Island, and could be soaring in time to celebrate Independence Day later this week.
The bald eagle nest at the Nature Conservancy's Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island has been monitored from afar for months. The preserve's natural resource manager Mike Scheibel says the pair of bald eagles, rare for Long Island, hatched in April and have been growing by leaps and bounds ever since.
"At least one of the birds is physically out of the nest a short distance," says Scheibel, "so they're capable of some short practice flights."
Scheibel says it's too early to tell if the birds are male or female, but they are clearly healthy.
The exact location of the nest has been closely guarded, and not even the preserve's staff goes near it for fear of disturbing the eagle parents and causing desertion of their nest.
"In the early part of the process, they're the most dangerous; the adults don't have as much investment in terms of energy and time," says Scheibel. "But as time goes on and the young grow, I think we're through the woods now - we're at a period where they're going to stick with it."
Scheibel says the entire state of New York was down to just one bald eagle nest in the mid-1970s, but the Department of Environmental Conservation launched a 13-year restoration program by releasing young eagles from Alaska in New York.
"When you bring a bird into an area where it learns to fly or fledge, that's where it's apt to return to nest," says Scheibel. "For eagles, that doesn't mean 200 feet away - it might mean 200 miles away - but it means this general vicinity."
The Nature Conservancy is one of a number of organizations protecting large tracts of land where eagles can find safe places to nest. The Mashomack Preserve was protected for nesting ospreys in 1980, and today provides suitable habitat for both hawks and eagles.
The Continental Congress adopted the Bald Eagle as America's national bird in 1782.