Yesterday in Green-Wood I was enjoying the sun in a section of the cemetery I’d never been in before when a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flew overhead. Whoa! The bird was a mature adult; it takes about four years for those white feathers to come in completely on the head and tail. The look is as distinctive as a flag. The bird was flying low and I wondered if it would land nearby. It did.It was perched above the Crescent Water in this pine. From here it flew somewhere thattaway. When I eventually got up over the hill, there it was again. These birds are big (31″ length, 80″ wingspan), so they really stick out when up in a bare tree. I was just about to get a focus on the bird for some more pictures when it stretched out its wings. There was a crack, the branch the bird was sitting on broke and plummeted down with a crash as the bird flew away. They can weigh up to a dozen pounds, which is an awful lot for a bird.I ran into two birders at Green-Wood’s Gothic pile entrance at 5th Ave. who saw the bird leaving the cemetery grounds in a northwesterly direction. This was the first time I’ve seen an adult specimen of the species, whose binomial translates as this post’s title (“bald” is
pretty dumb see comment below), actually standing in Brooklyn.
I just read the other day that there about 150 pairs in NJ and close to 200 in NY. There is a breeding pair on Staten Island. Thoreau, who used the old “white-headed” name for these birds, said about an 1854 encounter with one: “We who live this plodding life here below never know how many eagles fly over us. They are concealed in the empyrean.” But by the 1970s, there was almost nothing to conceal: NY was down to a single pair, and they were unsuccessful at breeding. Bringing them back from the brink (often from upper Midwestern stock, btw) been a great success story, one we must build on.