Like baseball and apple pie, the bald eagle is an inherently American emblem. This majestic bird of prey, with its snow-capped head and tail, is found only in North America — and traditionally has had quite a presence in the lower Hudson Valley. Although a symbol of strength and liberty, by the 1960s bald eagles had been nearly eliminated in New York State: there was only one active nest remaining, and the number of wintering visitors had been reduced to less than a dozen. An intensive restoration program began in the late 1970s, with the goal of rebuilding the nesting population by importing young birds from other states and hand-rearing them to independence. As a result of the program, and protection efforts by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, New York’s population of bald eagles had increased enough by 1999 that the bird was removed from the endangered list.
Teatown Lake Reservation’s Hudson River EagleFest is one opportune occasion to view these impressive fliers. The 12th annual event, which takes place on February 6 at Croton Point Park, features guided eagle viewings, live raptor shows, and musical performances (head to www.teatown.org/teatown-events/eaglefest.html for more info). Before you pull out the binoculars, here are nine by-the-numbers facts about our national bird:
1782 The year the Founding Fathers adopted the bald eagle as the country’s national bird. Since then, its outspread wings have appeared on everything from the country’s Great Seal to coins and paper money.
8 The weight of an average eagle, in pounds.
35 The bald eagle’s average length, in inches.
35 The number of days it takes an eagle’s egg to hatch. Females lay clutches one to three times a year.
25 The percentage by which female eagles are typically larger than males.
1972 The year the pesticide DDT was made illegal, resulting in the bald eagle’s removal from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007.
1997 The first year in more than a century in which an eagle was born along the Hudson River.
100 The minimum number of bald eagles that migrate to the Valley for the winter.
6/202 The state routes where eagles can often be spotted (especially from the overlook near Iona Island).
Related: 8 Top Spots For Bald Eagles