Birds are the talk of New York City these days. The anxious among us fret about the vicious avian flu decimating chicken flocks and crossing over into some mammals. In Manhattan, birders are doing their part to find a Eurasian eagle owl named Flaco who went on the lam in Central Park after vandals cut open his enclosure in the park’s zoo.
In Brooklyn, at least, there is some good bird news: Over the past month or so, a breeding pair of bald eagles have set up on Ruffle Bar island, with one of them hanging out in Prospect Park. Since early January, day-trippers to the borough’s iconic park have been thrilled to see the eagle perching in trees, flying over the lake, and chasing down herons and gulls. The local birds have been less excited about that last part:
“It’s amazing to see in the park so close to where I live,” says Windsor Terrace resident Janet Rogers. An artist who got into birding during the pandemic, Rogers has been down at the park taking pictures of one of the eagles and pointing out the nation’s mascot to the unsuspecting: “There was a woman walking directly under the eagle perched in a tree and I pointed it out — she was like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know.’” Rogers says that its favorite spots are the peninsula that juts into the lake and nearby Lookout Hill.
Bald-eagle sightings are still fairly uncommon in the city, with the last notable visitor, a bird named Rover, stopping by Central Park in January 2022. But after the state reintroduced a pair of raptors at a site near the Finger Lakes in the 1970s, the population has grown to over 400 breeding pairs in New York.
If only we could say “go birds” without getting in trouble.