It’s a beautiful thing happening on social media in the Hamptons. Amazing new photos of bald eagles in the Hamptons are showing up all over social media. Skilled photographers as well plain old folks with smart phones are posting some amazing photos of the mighty bird. The bald eagle photo with this article was taken in Sag Harbor right off the wharf by the skillful lens hands of Tom LaGrassa. Other bald eagle sightings were in Montauk, in the Springs, near 3-Mile Harbor and on the North Fork in both Mattituck, Orient and Greenport. Experts say the increase volume of mature bald eagles now living on Long Island and the clearer visibility winter brings with trees bare of leaves helps.
Last year I wrote a series of articles about a new generation of Long Island born bald eagles nesting all over Long Island and the vigils under their nests by local eagle enthusiasts. Now there seems to be more sightings and the best dreams of the environmentalists who fought long and hard for cleaner water and estuaries are seeing the fruits of their labors.
How do you recognize a bald eagles nest? The average bald eagle nest is 4 to 5 feet in diameter and 2 to 4 feet deep. Each year the adult pair will add 1 to 2 feet of new material to the nest. The largest recorded bald eagle nest, located in St. Petersburg, FL, was 9.5 feet in diameter, 20 feet deep and weighed almost three tons. They are usually located on the highest tree in the area. Therefore, the parent bald eagles only needs to look down. They are located substantially higher than osprey nests although look very similar to non-expert.
In those nests will be hatched this year’s group of Long Island born bald eagles. The nests are usually situated near great locations to gather food for when the young chicks are born. So, what do the adult bald eagles feed the eaglets? According to US Fish and Wildlife Service, “The US Eagle chicks are fed a steady diet of fish, occasionally supplemented by waterfowl (ducks, geese) or water birds (gulls, cormorants). About 85% of a chick’s diet will typically consist of fish such as carp, white sucker, shad, bullhead and sunfish. The adults capture and tear the fish into small strips, offering them to the chicks. The chicks snatch the food from the adult’s beak and swallow it whole. An eagle chick will eat as much as it can at a single feeding, storing food in its crop. The crop, an organ located near the base of the bird’s neck, will enlarge as it fills, resembling a golf ball.”
Last summer many watched the young eaglets learn to fly. Where did they go? Again, quoting the US Fish and Wildlife Service, “The young eagle will spend the next 4 years of its life wandering across eastern North America looking for summering and wintering areas where food is accessible. The mortality rate for eagles during their first year of life is greater than 50%, but once they have learned to hunt and forage successfully their chances of reaching adulthood are good. When it begins to mature at age 4, an eagle seeks a mate and establishes a territory. The territory is usually located within 250 miles of the nest where the eagle was hatched.”
Now it seems the mature eaglets are coming back to the Hamptons to nest for themselves in higher numbers. I asked Dr. Rebecca Grella, an ecologist and an evolutionary biologist, where do the mature bald eagles go in the winter? I was surprised to hear they stayed in their Hamptons nests all winter long.
I would appreciate comments about your sightings of bald eagles in the last two years! I love reading and hearing the stories. After waiting a whole lifetime to see a bald eagle in a Long Island sky last year I saw five! I just smiled and watched. It seems all of Long Island including the Hamptons love bald eagles.