Bald Eagles' Manhattan Return Turns Turbulent

By Bijal P. Trivedi
National Geographic Today
August 28, 2002

Roughly seven weeks ago the City of New York released four bald eagles in a park at the northern tip of Manhattan, hoping to re-establish the bird as a local resident. Since then one of the four eagles has flown the coop. And another met with a train accident and was brought back from the dead on the operating table.

"Drama has returned to Inwood Hill Park," said Tom Cullen, Master Falconer and Eagle Project Manager for the New York City Parks & Recreation.

The four eagles are certainly keeping Cullen busy.

"Every family has a problem child and the youngest male eagle [called A64] in this group is mine," Cullen said. Within 48 hours of recovering from a nasty bout of roundworm, the young male was hit by a train and was lying on the track with a broken leg. Cullen traced his location using a radio transmitter that each eagle carries in a tiny custom-designed backpack.

Yesterday A64 underwent surgery. "But soon after receiving the anesthetic the bird died on the operating table and the doctors spent 20 minutes trying to resuscitate him," said Cullen. Fortunately they were successful.

The bone was repaired and a splint attached to the bird's leg. Cullen estimates that he will probably require about three weeks of physical rehabilitation during which he will be extensively handled—something that Cullen has tried to avoid.

The older male, A62, was last seen traveling north of Haverstraw, NY, with another eagle. The older female spent the last week flying out of transmitter range in southwest New Jersey. She returned in good health this morning. "She apparently likes New York more than New Jersey," said Cullen.

The younger female is the only bird that seems to like the neighborhood, and the free lunch. She has only traveled about 150 yards from the release site.

New York's New Immigrants

The eaglets—two males and two females—landed in New York from northern Wisconsin on June 20, exactly 220 years after the bald eagle was declared the national symbol. The birds were hoisted onto a tree-house style platform rigged with a remote-controlled Web camera in Inwood Hill Park, near the Hudson and Harlem rivers in northern Manhattan.

The ultimate goal of the reintroduction program is to encourage the birds to nest and breed in the NYC region, once again making it their home. And New York officials are also hoping that the eagles will become symbols of renewed strength and pride, boosting spirits in the wake of 9/11.

Continued on Next Page >>


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