Not far from the Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty, some New Yorkers have witnessed another symbol of American independence: the bald eagle.
Locals have seen a pair of the national birds nesting on an uninhabited island off the coast of Staten Island. According to the Audobon Society, they are the first bald eagles to nest in New York City in over 100 years.
To the protect the birds, the group is withholding the exact location of the nest.
A tugboat captain first noticed the eagles in early January. They were busily collecting nesting materials and building a nest atop an unused dock.
The bald eagle population has steadily increased nationwide for the past several decades. Since the harmful pesticide DDT was banned in the 1970s, the eagle’s population has rebounded. The bald eagle was recently removed from the Endangered Species list.
New York only houses about 170 breeding pairs of eagles, but hundreds of them take refuge in the state during the winter. In 1960, only one nesting pair resided in New York.
Why would the eagles choose to nest in a busy area like New York City? The surge in population is one possible explanation. While the birds normally prefer a quiet environment, they may have been crowded out of other areas. The Hudson River also has a plentiful fish population, and its improving water quality has attracted more wildlife to the city.
As New York City becomes more nature-friendly, and the bald eagle population continues the grow, the Audobon Society is hopeful the area will soon see more eagle nests. New Yorkers are sure to welcome these new neighbors, even if they are a little jealous of their rent-free, waterfront real estate.