Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The eagles of Manhattan

Unlike the rest of Manhattan's parks, most of Inwood Hill has never been landscaped, and its forest is protected by New York's "forever wild" designation. The state has also been making major efforts to restore water quality and wildlife in the Hudson River in recent years, following extensive PCB contamination from a General Electric plant upstream (a topic which will soon receive a blog entry of its own).

As a part of the city's and the state's efforts to restore ecosystems of the Hudson estuary, Inwood Hill Park has hosted a bald eagle hack site for the past five years. This summer, in the fifth and final year of the program, four newborn eaglets from Wisconsin are nesting and growing their flight feathers on a guarded platform that has a spectacular view of upper Manhattan. In a few weeks, they'll be sent out to try their wings; by the end of the summer, they are expected to leave the park and fend for themselves.

After a five or six year period of adolescence, the eagles will develop the characteristic white head feathers and may return to the New York City area. Parks biologists are hoping that one or two of the eagles brought up five years ago in Inwood Hill Park may return to the lower Hudson this summer. Even if they don't return to Manhattan proper, there is plenty of decent eagle habitat across the river in the Palisades of New Jersey.

A live video feed of the eagles in their hack site can be found at the park web link above.

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