The symbols of freedom in America are plentiful. The Liberty Bell. The Declaration of Independence. Old Glory. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention America’s national bird and iconic emblem: The bald eagle. Once on the brink of extinction due to human activity, this majestic bird has made a comeback, and you can even see American bald eagles on Staten Island and nearby. Interestingly enough, just as the species near-demise was due to human activity, so was its rescue.
Bald Eagles on Staten Island and Bald Eagle Conservation History
It wasn’t too long ago that bald eagles were on the endangered species list. Saving the species started when it was given federal protection in 1940 under what later became the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Despite its protection, things still remained grim for the species.
“The eagle population fell into steep decline in later decades due to illegal killing, habitat destruction, and widespread use of the pesticide DDT after World War II,” Leigh Henry, director of wildlife policy at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) explained. “DDT accumulated in eagles through ingestion of prey and caused them to lay eggs with weakened shells, decimating the eagle population across the nation.”
But don’t fret! Things perked up for the bald eagle—and other animals—when the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted in 1973.
“From an all-time low of 417 breeding pairs in 1963, the population in the lower 48 states has grown to nearly 10,000 nesting pairs today, thanks to protections provided under the ESA. The recovery and delisting of the nation’s symbol from the ESA in 2007 is a true conservation success story,” Henry of the WWF said.
While bald eagles have been delisted from the ESA, given their fantastic comeback (yaaaay!), they are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Bald eagles on Staten Island and other nearby areas continue to thrive and provide an amazing view when they’re soaring through the sky, perched in a tree or otherwise just hanging out.
“The ESA is one of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws and has ensured that 99% of listed species have avoided extinction,” Henry said. “The ESA protects species and their habitats, which provides benefits to other species, ecosystems, clean air, freshwater, and more. Saving endangered species provides cascading benefits but only some species get the same recognition as our national emblem. Congress has never fully funded the ESA, and to ensure our nation’s most vulnerable wildlife are protected, we must provide increased resources to support their recovery.”
Where to See Bald Eagles on Staten Island and Nearby
This 4th of July weekend, do something a little different with the family. Pack a picnic and some binoculars, head to a local park, and see if you can spot a beautiful bald eagle in the wild. And don’t be disappointed if you can’t find them. Sometimes they just like to be undercover. But when you do spot one—it’s quite breathtaking and worth the wait.
As a bonus, bring our birdwatching guide along to see if you can spot other feathered friends, too!
Places in Staten Island and nearby to see bald eagles:
Staten Island’s South Shore, Hylan Boulevard
This sprawling natural area encapsulates many different kinds of habitat, including beach, forests, wetlands and more, all of which supply everything local wildlife and plants need to survive. Plus, there’s easy parking and cleared paths to walk along during your eagle-watching adventure.
Staten Island’s South Shore, Hylan Boulevard
Part of the Staten Island unit of Gateway National Recreation Area, this park is 523 acres and great for birdwatching.
7455 Hylan Blvd.
Located at the southernmost tip of Staten Island–not to mention the southernmost tip of NYC- is Conference House Park. This waterside park, where the Arthur Kill joins Raritan Bay, has dunes, beaches, wetlands, meadows and wooded bluffs that birds love. Bald eagles have been spotted here many times.
This beautiful natural area, part of the National Park Service, is a marshy estuary shared by Queens and Brooklyn.
Queens – Grand Central Parkway, Van Wyck Expressway
In the heart of bustling Queens and surrounded by major highways with rushing city traffic, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is a classic urban park that offers some great spots for watching birds, including bald eagles.
Bald Eagles in New Jersey: More Good News
In addition to bald eagles on Staten Island, there are many places to see them in neighboring New Jersey, too. In fact, according to the 2022 New Jersey Bald Eagle Project Report, 250 active nests were identified last year. (Active nests mean the nests produced eggs.) This was an increase of 28 active nests since 2021.
“The continued growth of New Jersey’s bald eagle population is an inspiration to all of us and is a direct result of strong environmental protection laws, firm partnerships, innovative scientific techniques – and the dedication of many volunteers who devote much of their time to monitoring and protecting eagles,” Shawn LaTourette, NJ’s environmental protection commissioner, said. “The efforts of the New Jersey Bald Eagle Project – a partnership among the DEP, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, and volunteer eagle watchers – demonstrate how new technologies, effective coordination, public engagement, and education are at work to protect treasured wildlife species such as the bald eagle.”
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