Raptor Wednesday: Earth Day Edition

In April 1970, at the time of the first Earth Day, there weren’t many Bald Eagles to be found in the Lower 48. Your chance of seeing one over Brooklyn, of all places, was extremely unlikely. Practically fabulous. That they might breed within the city’s limits was an equally outlandish notion. Even before DDT brought them to the brink of extirpation regionally, persecutions had reduced the Bald Eagle population in New York state to almost nothing by the mid-1900s. There were no recorded births after 1955.
Who did the crows chase then?
Last week, I saw a young (still without the white head and tail) eagle over the Sylvan Water, looking like it was coming in to go fishing in the pond. An American Crow set off the alarm and went after the much bigger bird. The two birds swirled a bit before disappearing from my sight. But then, at least one more crow starting yelling. The sound didn’t diminish, as you would expect if they were all flying further away.
Because the eagle had landed. This is only the second time I’ve seen an eagle perched in Brooklyn.
Blue Jays joined the chorus, yelling more at the crows than the eagle, it seemed.
With more wingspan feet than most of us are tall, the bird flew off after a brief perch.
The inner eyelid or rnictitating membrane is closed in this view.
Opening in this view…

A young eagle had been spotted few times by other Green-Wood observers from the beginning of the month. One person got a photograph of the bird in a tree with a fish. The bird was banded, with a silver federal band on the bird’s right leg and one that looked blue on the left. Individual states band on the left leg; these are color-coded and easier to read from a distance. But I couldn’t see the characters on those pictures, put up on iNaturalist.

But last week, I was close enough to get pictures myself that I could read. The band is actually black. R over 7, I found out from the NYSDEC’s Tom Lake, editor of the Hudson River Almanac, was banded on May 11, 2018 in New Haven CT. That’s about 85 miles away via I-95. They can travel much further distances.

They have come a long way since the 1970s. Back then, a conservative Republican (and a terrible person) named Richard Nixon signed into law a slew of important conservation and environmental laws, all being dismantled by his ghastly heirs.

There was a single pair in the New York state in 1974, but they weren’t breeding. A recovery program began in 1976 with introductions/hackings and fostering of nestlings. The species was de-listed in 2007 at the federal level. Today, there are hundreds of breeding pairs in New York.
Earth Day remains a fight.

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