Editor’s note: One week ago, board members for the Town of Huntington unanimously passed a resolution designating September 25 “Bald Eagles of Centerport Day.” Below is Northport High School rising junior Jules Nguyen’s write-up about the eagles at Mill Pond, followed by information on a special event being held on September 25 at the Vanderbilt Museum in honor of the local eagle couple and its offspring.
If you live near or around Centerport, you likely have heard about or seen in-person the famous bald eagles of Centerport. The majestic birds were first spotted by Centerport resident Rob Schwartz in 2017, and have since brought photographers and curious spectators together to observe, document, monitor and protect the birds of prey. At first, Rob thought his original sighting was a fluke, that the birds were doing a simple fly-by. They were really living, Rob discovered, in a massive nest high in a tree in a parking lot along 25A.
The story began with Rob asking another photographer, Nancy Viscardi-Ricigliano to help him get better shots of the birds, which he could upload to his new Facebook group, Bald Eagles of Centerport, NY. Over time, the number of photographers coming to record the daily lives of the bald eagles grew exponentially; in 2018, a live webcam was bought and installed by the eagles’ nest. This webcam was paid for using the donations from the many fans and supporters eager to watch the eagles and their eaglets go through life. More recently, these donations have also been used to fund charities like Boots on the Ground, which sends care packages to overseas troops, and WINORR (Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation), to provide care for wildlife needing assistance.
The eagle parents have raised a total of ten eaglets, called C1-C10 in order of their birth. Their lives are documented by the webcam in their early stages and by the group’s photographers, many professional, some hobbyists, most local, some traveling great distances for the chance to capture a great shot of the birds. Thanks to the efforts of the group, people from Long Island – and around the world – are able to witness eagle and eaglet life, from their beginnings in the nest to the eaglets’ growth and maturing, branching, practicing flight and hunting. The eaglets tend to leave the home nest 10 to 12 weeks after hatching; Mom and Dad continue to use Mill Pond as their main residence.
Other than the famously white-feathered head, bald eagles are known for their impressive hunting abilities. Much of their diet is made of fish, though small waterfowl, mammals, and carrion, or animal carcasses, are also on the menu. A look at the Bald Eagles of Centerport Facebook page shows an up-close and detailed look at the eagles’ hunting habits, from their eagle eyes and talons to the fish and other prey they capture in and around Mill Pond.
An eagle’s hunting prowess is not instinctual; growing up, the bald eagle parents must teach their young how to hunt and how to fly. Like any skill, it must be practiced, and eaglets can be seen to hop around and test their wings and talons. These small exercises are the first steps toward eaglets being able to fly, as it strengthens their muscles and precision. To practice their hunting, eaglets attempt to hunt particularly vulnerable prey, and do a form of target practice using twigs. When an eaglet is more confident, the parents bring less food to the nest, forcing the eaglet to go fly and hunt on its own.
This season’s eaglets – C8, C9 and C10 – seem to have officially left the pond. After a brief hiatus (parents tend to disappear for a couple of weeks to help nudge the eaglets toward independence), Mom and Dad have returned to life as empty nesters, for now.
The Bald Eagles of Centerport, NY Facebook page boasts nearly 20,000 members. On September 25, now officially known as “Bald Eagles of Centerport Day,” group members, photographers and fans can honor the eagles at a special celebration at the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport. WINORR (Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation) will be bringing rescued raptors (a bald eagle, golden eagle, owls and more) for a raptor display. A Bald Eagles of Centerport movie will be playing every hour; family activities and environmentally friendly vendors, as well as an art show will also take place at the event.