Eagles in New York: Everything that You Need to Know
The big apple is the home of many magnificent creatures, and among countless habitats, one can also encounter eagles in New York City.
Generally, you will find two species of eagles in New York, the bald eagle and the golden eagle. But on some rare occasions, you might also encounter majestic white-tailed eagles as well.
In this guide on eagles in New York, we will take a deeper look into the eagles found in the largest city of the United State, which places you should look to find them, and some interesting facts.
Different Species of Eagle Found in New York
As mentioned earlier, you can encounter three species of eagles in New York: the bald eagle, golden eagle, and white-tailed eagle. The first two species can be found quite easily if know their common visit place, while the latter can be hard to encounter.
For this reason, many professional bird watchers state that there are only two species of eagles in New York. But that isn’t always the case, if you are lucky, then you might be part of the few who caught a glimpse of white-tailed eagles in the heart of New York City.
|Name||Bald Eagle||Golden Eagle||White Tailed|
|Feather Color||White Feathers on the Neck & Head. Brown feathers for the rest of the body.||Dark brown feathers from head to toe.||Dark brown feathers from head to toe except for white color on the tail.|
|Primary Food||Fish||Mammal||Fish & Mammal|
|Mating Season||Early winter to late spring.||Early spring to late summer.||Spring.|
|Number of Nests||1||1||More than 1|
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
- Length: 27.9 to 40 inches
- Weight: 105 to 223 oz
- Wingspan: 70 to 90 inches
- Commonly Found In: the St Lawrence River Area, Central Park, Sheepshead Bay, and some areas in Upstate, mostly near water bodies across New York.
Bald eagles are arguably the most common species of eagles that you will encounter all across the United States. They are especially common in New York, and you are bound to come across some if you hang around the bay arena. Open water bodies may also host medium to large-sized fishes.
These majestic avian creatures have white feathers covering their face and neck, and the rest of their body is covered with dark brown feathers. The male eagles are shorter compared to their female counterparts. Female bald eagles are almost 25 percent bigger than male eagles.
The most common places where bald eagles make their nests are in trees or high spaces near open water bodies. This is due to the fact that they prefer fish as their primary source of food. But if they don’t get their hand on some, they might also turn to small mammals like rabbits.
For this reason, most bald eagle sightings in New York are in the bay area. In the winter season they sometimes move upstate during the winter. The St. Lawrence River and the surrounding area are one of the most common places where you can see them during the cold weather.
Behavior & Characteristics
Let’s explore the behaviors of bald eagle in details here.
This species of eagle builds large nests high up in the trees. Generally, their nests are made up of sticks with a few leaves here and there.
The nests are 4 to 6 feet wide and can host two eagles comfortably. This size depends on the eagle and whether or not it has a mate or not. The largest nest found to this date was 10 feet wide; it weighed around three tons.
They build their nests for a long time and add a new layer of wood and leaves each passing year. So, it is safe to say that they know how to take care of their home properly.
With the majestic and serious vibe that the bald eagle brings, you might be disappointed to know that their calls aren’t that intimidating. Their call sounds like a combination of the squeak and whistles of a gull. It is like a high-pitched soccer whistle.
They will call out during their mating seasons and when they face any sort of threats, for example, humans or other birds approaching their nests.
The mating season for bald eagles starts in early winter, around the first week of October to late spring, around the end of May. A bald eagle becomes capable of mating around 4 years of age. During their mating season, they become quiet nesting.
Bald eagles hunt for food from a very high altitude. Due to their eyes having eight times better sight than a human, they can notice their prey from a distance and strikes them swiftly. As they mainly hunt for fish, they will grab the fish up as soon as they are close to the surface.
Most of the time, bald eagles will use their talons to grab their prey. But if the target is in shallow water, they may use their beaks instead.
If not provoked, bald eagles generally won’t attack people or animals other than fish. They are very social in the animal kingdom. But there have been cases when they have attacked humans and animals. Most of the time, it was either due to hunger or provocation.
There haven’t been any cases of bald eagles attacking anyone in New York City. You can see them in action when they are catching fish, but it is very unlikely that they will attack you when you are watching them.
Interesting Facts About Bald Eagles
Here are some interesting facts about bald eagles that will surprise you:
They Aren’t Actually Bald
Bald eagles aren’t really bald, even though their name suggests otherwise. Is it a mistake in naming?
Not actually. The bald in their name dates back to the word ‘Piebald’ in Old English. It means ‘White Patch’ referring to the white feathers covering the eagle’s head and neck.
It Is Difficult to Distinguish Young Bald Eagles from Golden Eagles
You might encounter a young bald eagle in New York but think that it is a golden eagle instead.
This is because the unique feature of bald eagles, the white feathers on the hair don’t develop until they are 5 years old. During that period, their head is covered with dark brown feathers like the rest of their body.
You can distinguish whether an eagle is a young bald eagle or not by looking at its feet. Bald eagles don’t cover the area around their feet with feathers. But golden eagles do.
They Were Once Extinct
Not quite long ago, Bald eagles, the national symbol of the USA were put into the endangered species list under the Endangered Species Act in 1978. This was due to the destruction of their habitats and the rise in the illegal hunting of bald eagles.
In all across America, it was listed that there were only 417 nesting pairs remaining in 1963. But this danger of extinction was passed, and in 2006 their name was removed from the list of endangered species. Now around 316,700 bald eagles are roaming in the US, and around 1000 of them reside in New York
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
- Length: 26 to 40 inches
- Weight: 105 to 216 oz
- Wingspan: 71 to 96 inches
- Commonly Found In: Southern New York and Franklin Mountain.
Apart from the bald eagles, the golden eagles are the ones that you will encounter most in New York. While they aren’t as flashy as bald eagles, they are built for the hunt and are known for taking down large prey easily.
They got the name golden eagle due to having a golden brown coloured neck and crown. In the perfect light, the golden color of the feathers truly shines. It is one of the most magnificent views in New York when golden eagles get the spotlight during the golden hour of the day.
The rest of the body of the golden eagle is deeper brown with a hint of pale feathers. Their eye color ranges from dark brown to light yellow.
There isn’t any feather color difference between male and female golden eagles. The only distinguishing factor between a male and female is that the females are larger compared to the male. For young golden eagles, their feather color tends to be darker.
Among golden eagles, there are 6 different types. The differences are mainly in size, wingspan, and highlights on the feathers.
Behavior & Characteristics
Learning about the characteristics of the bird can be of immense help to you.
Height is something that this species of eagle loves. That’s why their nests are built on tree tops, nesting platforms, observation towers, and other high-elevated places.
In New York, you will find their nest on tall trees. In the Franklin Mountain area, some golden eagle nests can be found at the very top.
While they enjoy elevated places very much, golden eagles are also known to build their nests even on the ground. Their main requirement is to have a good view of the surrounding areas, and if that is possible while staying on the ground, then they will end up making their nest on the ground.
Most of the time, partners make their nests together. But there have been exceptions.
They have a high-pitched whistle-like calling sound that they use during hunting and during their breeding season. The call isn’t quite deep but it can be heard from a very long distance.
Golden eagles choose their partners for life. Once they have selected their mate, they are inseparable. To attract a partner of their liking, a male golden will try to impress the female.
The male eagle will either pick up a rock or stick and then fly up very high carrying it. Once the bird has reached a high altitude, it will drop the stone or stick and dive forward to catch it before it touches the ground.
If the female eagle is impressed with this speed and tenacity, they will mate; otherwise, the male eagle will move on to find another partner.
During their breeding season, you will hear the golden eagle’s calls. These can feel like high-pitched intensive whistles to most of us. The call can also be heard when the chicks are born and ask for food from their parents.
Golden eagles start mating when they are 3 or 4 years old. Their mating season starts at the beginning of spring in March and ends around late summer in August.
Once golden eagles have partnered, they will do most of their work together, co-depending on each other. This is especially visible when they go out to hunt.
This bird of prey was made for the hunt. Golden eagles are arguably one of the best avian hunters in the world. Their body is made up of light feathers, which allows them to be extremely fast & agile. The bone constitution is incredibly durable, and their hard talons & beck make them lethal against their targets.
That’s why these eagles aren’t afraid of attacking prey larger than their size. While bald eagles prefer fish as their primary diet, golden eagles target mid-sized mammals like squirrels, rabbits, and marmots. Sometimes they also go for mountain goats, badgers, deer, seals, and even bear cubs.
Golden eagles mainly use their talons for their attacks. The beak is for eating only. But they won’t prevent themselves from using their beaks in extreme situations.
Due to their fearless nature, they won’t back down once they are provoked. There have been numerous cases where golden eagles have attacked bears, lions & tigers. But generally, they are quite peace-loving, so they won’t suddenly start to attack you out of nowhere.
Interesting Facts about Golden Eagles
There are some facts about golden eagles that most people don’t know. Let’s have a quick look at them:
Feather Covering from Legs to Toes
The golden eagles, ferruginous hawks, and rough-legged hawk are the only birds of prey residing in the United States with a feather that covers their legs to toe.
This is a distinguishing feature of golden eagles. Otherwise, it is quite impossible to spot the difference between a young bald eagle and a golden eagle in the USA, especially in New York.
Both Partners Incubate the Eggs
As mentioned earlier, a golden eagle pair is quite co-dependent on each other, and it is the same for incubating their eggs as well. In contrast, the female eagle does the incubation for the longest. The male eagle also participates when the female gets tired and needs rest.
Keeps Protection to Avoid Bugs at Home
Many golden eagle nests are filled with different kinds of herbs and aromatics. They bring these to their nests to create a protective aroma that keeps bugs and insects away from their home.
As they hold on to a nest for a long period of time, taking care of it is quite understandable. But most eagles only add a new layer to improve their nests, while golden eagles take the extra step and bring in bug-protecting vegetation as well.
White-Tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)
- Length: 30 to 40 inches
- Weight: 165 to 194 oz
- Wingspan: 70 to 96 inches
- Commonly Found In Western Beaches in New York, Derby Hill
Arguably the largest species of eagle in the world, the white-tailed eagles are a rare sight in New York City. Encountering one of them can be quite the turn of events so don’t get your hopes up if you plan to catch one roaming the New York skyline.
That being said, there have been cases when people have stumbled across white-tailed eagles in the winter as they come looking for food.
These birds of prey have deep brown feathers covering their entire body with yellow eyes, bills, and talons. Their tail, as the name suggests, is white. Young white-tailed eagles have extremely dark brown skin tones, while some of the older ones might have a bit of a whitish touch on the head and some of the feathers.
Similar to all the other eagles mentioned in this article, white-tailed males are also smaller in size compared to females. The difference is around 15%.
Known as sea eagles, the white-tailed eagles have the largest wingspan compared to every other eagle species out there. They love the costliness and are generally found in those areas.
Behavior & Characteristics
Here, you’ll learn how this bird behaves and about their key characteristics.
Generally, white-tailed eagles build their nests around large trees and build them between two or three branches. They look like hammocks hanging around on small branches, but there is a main and strong branch that supports the nest.
These birds usually pick trees that are near water when building their nests. This is due to the convenience of getting food easily. For this reason, sometimes white-tailed eagles avoid making nests on trees and build them on sea cliffs instead.
When building their nests, the male eagle will bring all the necessary parts, like the sticks & branches, moss ferns, and seaweeds, while the female will construct the nest.
Their calling sound is quite loud and can be described as a mix of yelps and barks on a higher pitch and tempo. They call out when they are patrolling their territories. White-tailed eagles are extremely vocal during the mating season too.
White-tailed eagles start to breed when they are 5 or 6 years older. Much like golden eagles, they are monogamous meaning they partner for life.
The mating season for white-tailed eagles starts at the and lasts the entirety of spring. Generally, you will find them mating in March or late April.
The female eagle will lay 1 to 3 eggs which she will incubate for around 40 days. During this time, the male white-tailed eagle will do the hunting and also feed the female the food.
When the eggs get hatched, the female eagle stays with the chicks for almost three weeks before going out to hunt. During those three weeks, the male eagle will provide food for both the mother and the children.
They are stealthy predators who will stalk their prey and swoop in when it drops its guards. Their primary food choice is fish but small to mid-sized mammals and small birds are also part of their food choice. For hunting birds, they prefer diving ducks the most.
These birds of prey are also known for stealing food from other birds as well. They mark their areas and if some other bird is roaming there, they tend to attack it to get the other bird’s food. There have been cases when white-tailed eagles preyed on juveniles and nestlings.
When food is scarce, especially in the winter, white-tailed eagles are known to eat decaying animals as well. During these times, they tend to come to human settlements for food. Even though they have an aggressive nature, they won’t attack or come near a settlement where they might have to meddle with humans.
For this reason, even if a white-tailed eagle is roaming in the New York skies, it is difficult to spot them.
They have quite an aggressive nature and don’t like to share their territory with others. For that reason, it stays clear of human settlements. They usually don’t attack humans unless provoked. So, keep your distance and you will be fine if you encounter them,
Interesting Facts about White-Tailed Eagles
Here are some facts about white-tailed eagles that might interest you:
Builds More than One Nest
These birds of prey are known to make more than one nest for themselves. Generally, the number doesn’t reach double digits and two or three nests are all it takes. But there have been cases where white-tailed eagles have built over 11 nests for themselves.
The nests are located in the same area, and they are spread across the bird’s territory.
Almost Got Extinct
White-tailed eagles almost got extinct in the 19th century. This was mostly due to the persecution of illegal hunting of eagles during that time. The change of habitat also played a role.
But this situation was handled properly by administrating strict laws against hunting these birds and the intervention from eagle conservationists.
Controls a Large Territory
As mentioned earlier, these eagles are territorial animals. They cover a large area and some white eagles claim over 70 km as their territory.
This is also one of the reasons why they are rare to see in New York because marking the city as hunting territory isn’t in the best interest of white-tailed eagles.
There you have it. These are all the information and details you need to know about eagles in New York City. Normally you will encounter the bald eagle and the golden eagle in the big apple. But you might just get lucky and find a white-tailed eagle that came to the city looking for food.
Make sure to match their characteristics with the details provided in this article, and best of luck!