STATEN ISLAND — The first bald eagles to nest in New York City in at least 100 years have laid eggs, according to the New York Audubon Society.
The eagle couple, "Vito" and his mate, who built a practice nest in Prince's Bay last year returned to the borough this spring and shacked up inside a Department of Environmental Conservation property on the South Shore, the Staten Island Advance first reported. The Audubon Society did not release the exact location of the birds because of fear of poachers.
Seth Wollney, 34, a biologist and competitive birder, spotted the birds with his friend several weeks ago and notified the Audubon Society they showed signs they had eggs in the nest. The two nicknamed the male bird "Vito."
"We were driving down a road on Staten Island and we saw the eagles flying into the nest and we quickly climbed out," Wollney said. "We sort had the inkling that it was happening, but confirming it was exciting."
Wollney said they couldn't see the eggs themselves, but one of the birds was always on the nest and sat down slowly on it every time, which he said they would only do if they had eggs inside.
An estimated 173 breeding pairs of eagles live in the state. The population grows in the winter when birds from Canada and Alaska fly to find areas with open waters and ample fish, Audubon said.
The population of bald eagles was nearly depleted nationwide due to the use of the pesticide DDT, according to Audubon. Since DDT's ban in the 1970s, the population has gradually climbed.
Wollney said that since the population has been expanding across the state, it wasn't surprising to see them nesting.
"It's great that we have the credit for finding the first ones in New York City," he said. "But the population has been increasing, it was kind of just a matter of time."