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Bald Eagles Spotted Flying Over Queens

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | October 9, 2015 3:22pm | Updated on October 11, 2015 8:53pm
 Bald eagles have recently been seen circling over the Forest Hills and Kew Gardens area.
Bald eagles have recently been seen circling over the Forest Hills and Kew Gardens area.
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Jeff Kollbrunner, JKNatureGallery

QUEENS — Bald eagles — once a rare sight in New York — have recently been seen circling above Forest Hills and Kew Gardens.

The birds were first spotted in the area about seven years ago and experts said they likely don't have a nest in the neighborhood, but have been seen more often in the city during migration.

“It’s not a common bird by any means but bald eagles are occasionally spotted migrating through the city, and in the past few years became more common,” said Tod Winston, communications manager for the NYC Audubon. "There have been sightings in all boroughs, including Queens."

On Oct. 4, a member of a Forest Hills Facebook group posted spotting the bird in the neighborhood.

“Bald eagle flying over Forest Hills,” the resident wrote. “I saw it yesterday and just now again but couldn't get a picture from my living room window.”

Jeff Kollbrunner, a Briarwood-based photographer and birdwatcher who has collaborated with the New York City Audubon as an urban hawk advisor for more than a decade, said he first saw some immature bald eagles flying above mid-Queens about seven years ago.

Last year, he spotted two mature birds for the first time, which stayed in the area from September until spring this year. He also saw two immature birds in Queens that year.

This year, he spotted one mature bird so far and said he heard reports of two more — one mature and one immature — flying around the area too. 

Kollbrunner said each time he saw the birds, they “were flying around together or just hanging out in the tree, and going from tree to tree."

"Maybe they were digesting their food from earlier in the day,” said Kollbrunner, who leads photography workshops as well as birding and nature walks around the city, including in Alley Pond Park, Forest Park, Willow Lake, Queens County Farm Museum and Central Park.

Experts said that bald eagles, along with other birds of prey, have made a remarkable comeback since the 1960s and 1970s, when their populations plummeted due to DDT and other pesticide use that caused the bird's egg shells to thin.

But after DDT was banned in 1972, eagles and other birds once again started to breed.

In the 1970s, there was just one breeding pair in New York State, but in 2010 New York had 173 breeding pairs which fledged 244 young, according to the New York Natural Heritage Program website and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Each year bald eagles around the state fledge about 10 percent more young than the year before, according to the DEC.

In spring this year, for the first time in at least 100 years a pair of bald eagles laid eggs in New York City.

The birds — Vito and Linda — first built a practice nest in Prince's Bay in Staten Island last year. They returned to the borough this year and showed signs they had eggs in the nest.

The eggs did not hatch, but experts hope the pair will return to Staten Island again next year.

Winston said that during migration bald eagles, which feed mainly on fish, can bee seen along various waterways in New York. They have also been seen near the northern tip of Manhattan.

“It’s a very special bird to see up close,” Kollbrunner said.

To see more pictures taken by Jeff Kollbrunner go to his website and Facebook page.