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As you read this, we are celebrating our nation’s Independence Day, and no doubt, there are ongoing fireworks displays, picnics, or other outdoor events to celebrate the occasion. The holiday also marks a milestone with some of our feathered residents of the region as well, as we will soon find out.
The resurgence of the bald eagle has been a resounding success, thanks to many people from a few decades back when both New York and Pennsylvania had only a few breeding resident eagles. Today, the number of breeding pairs for the two states combined is nearly 600, and the local region has a good number of active nests. Just on the Main Stem of the Delaware River between Port Jervis and Hancock, NY, there are over 20 active nests. There has been a shift in some contiguous nesting territories in one portion of the river corridor, which may indicate some interaction in the form of territorial disputes between breeding pairs.
The Fourth of July is a milestone due to the fact that most of the young eagles in the various nests are now ready to fledge, or have already done so. An old time saying for the eagles in the region was “Hatched by Tax Day (April 15), fledged by Fourth of July.” In reality, the time when eggs are laid (which affects the timing for future events, including the fledge) may vary by a month. The end of June and first part of July seems to be the average time when those 10-to-12-week-old eagles will make that jump off their 90-foot-high nests for their first flight.
You may find one of the new fledglings on the ground, or in an awkward position in a bush. Flying is one thing, but making a proper landing and “hitting the mark” is another. If you see one of these brown colored fledglings in a tight spot, the best thing to do is nothing. Keep your distance and watch from afar; unless the fledgling is obviously injured, these young eagles usually get out of their various awkward situations using their own resources.
If see a bird you think may be injured, call your state wildlife agency or a local wildlife rehabilitator. The Delaware Valley Raptor Center, which is licensed to handle eagles and other birds of prey, can be reached at 570/296-6025.