If Rover can do it here, maybe bald eagles can do it anywhere

Visitors to New York’s Central Park Reservoir witness feather-filled drama. Its star performer, delighting park-goers and terrorizing g...


Visitors to New York’s Central Park Reservoir witness feather-filled drama. Its star performer, delighting park-goers and terrorizing gulls, is Rover, a bald eagle.

City birdwatchers tracked Rover during two years, and some point to its ongoing history as demonstrating the conservation benefits of attaching aluminum bands to the legs of endangered bird species when they are young. Rover’s arrival in all five boroughs also adds to growing evidence of a return to urban areas by birds of prey. If Rover can settle in and around Central Park, perhaps more eagles will fill the city skies for years to come.

The Rover story begins in New Haven, Connecticut. In 2016, birdwatchers in the city were surprised to see a pair of bald eagles set up a nest near a busy intersection. The male wore a band around his leg reading “P2”, while the female was unbanded. Birdwatchers named the couple Walter and Rachel – W and R after the West River, which runs through the city, said Martin Torresquintero, outdoor adventure coordinator for the city government.

Walter and Rachel failed to raise any young that year and later moved to a nearby cemetery. They were successful the following year and then again in 2018 when they laid three eggs.

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection biologists monitored the nest until the eggs hatched. On May 11, 2018, Brian Hess, a state wildlife biologist, drove a cherry picker from the city of New Haven to the nest and removed the chicks. He weighed and measured them, placed a metal ring around each of their legs, and returned them. One ring contained a long number assigned by the United States Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Laboratory, while the other contained two large characters visible through telescopes or zoom lenses. The sister’s group read P7, while the man’s read R7 and the other, S7.

Two years later, a young bald eagle began to watch in the tall pines of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. “I couldn’t believe a bald eagle was hanging out at Green-Wood Cemetery in the middle of Brooklyn,” said Angela Panetta, a borough ornithologist who said the eagle got her interested in it. ‘bird watching.

Green-Wood birdwatchers spotted a ring around his left leg, R in 7 – earning him the nickname Rover, and they’ve been following him ever since.

Then, just a few weeks ago, a banded bald eagle appeared dramatically in Central Park, perching above the reservoir and snatching a seagull into the air in front of onlookers.

Mr. Hess had seen a video of the hunting Central Park bald eagle. “I thought, wow, that’s the coolest thing,” he said. Shortly after, he was contacted with a report that a bald eagle with the black stripe indicating R7 was hanging around New York City. He recognized the combination instantly – it was one of the siblings he brought together in 2018.

Rover represents part of an ongoing trend of birds of prey moving through urban areas. Raptor populations plummeted in the first half of the 20th century due to widespread hunting and the use of the insecticide DDT. These chemicals traveled up the food web and accumulated in predators such as bald eagles, making their egg shells too thin to support the parent’s weight, said Jen Cruz, a population ecologist at the University. of Boise State.

Bans on DDT, along with laws against harming or disturbing bald eagles, have led to the recovery of the species. The US population of bald eagles has quadrupled since 2009, and these large white-headed raptors are now a regular sight even in New York; bald eagles breed on Staten Island, for example. The birds are adaptable and can feed on fish, road kill, other birds and more, even in Central Park.

“I’ve been watching Central Park for at least five years,” said Manhattan’s Ursula Mitra. “And frankly, I’ve never seen an eagle hunt on the reservoir except for the last four or five weeks.”

Birds of prey are still endangered in New York. Just last year, Central Park’s famous barred owl, Barry, has died after hitting a maintenance vehicle. An autopsy revealed that she had ate poisoned prey.

Rover’s family also suffered drama. No new sightings of P7 have been reported, and S7 was killed in September 2018 by a truck in West Virginia. Rover’s mother, Rachel, was hit by a truck on I-95 in 2020 and survived. But during his rehabilitation, Walter found a new companion who fought Rachel when she tried to come back to him, Mr Torresquintero said.

Mr. Hess is optimistic about Rover’s future. Bald eagles start breeding at around 5 years old and Rover has 4 of them. Maybe he will find a mate and choose to breed in New York as well.

“Obviously this bird has figured out how to catch gulls, and probably ducks as well,” Mr Hess said. “They are really smart, adaptable birds that have figured out how to survive in a lot of different places.”



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Newsrust - US Top News: If Rover can do it here, maybe bald eagles can do it anywhere
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