Flying High

A Bogota neighborhood “adopts” a pair of eagles that made their nest in the unlikeliest of places.




 

In an area full of buses, cars and trucks, a rare sight has captured the hearts of a Bogota neighborhood. After all, it’s not every day that a family of bald eagles, including a fledging, takes up residence in your community.

Their story actually dates back to November, when bird watchers first noticed eagles carrying sticks while flying over the Hackensack River—a good indicator that nest building was underway. Sure enough, birders soon discovered the nest in a tree high above a Bogota home along River Road.

“If you’re an eagle it makes perfect sense,” says Don Torino, president of the Bergen County Audubon Society, adding that the tree overlooks the river—easy hunting for one with eagle eyes. But because of the bustling roadway underneath, “it’s just the last place you’d think an eagle would build a nest,” he says.

The owner of the home, 86-year-old Thomas White, was unaware a pair of eagles had moved into his yard until Torino came knocking on his door. “[White] was thrilled to death and in awe of them,” Torino says. “We were so lucky that we had such a nice man who really cared about the eagles.”

The bald eagle population in New Jersey has been on the rise after the species spent a long stretch on the endangered list. As of 2019, there were 211 pairs of bald eagles in the state. Of those nests, 190 laid eggs and produced 249 eaglets. Despite the uptick, it’s still exciting to see the bird in the wild.

White and his neighbors kept vigil from a distance for several months, watching and waiting until a single egg hatched. How’d they learn that from the ground? The sight of the eaglet’s head popping up from the nest gave it away. And weeks later, in June, they watched the fledging make two unsuccessful flights within a couple days—the last attempt grounding the eaglet for good. As tensions rose and fearing the eaglet might be injured, the Bogota Police Department contacted Torino, who brought it to the Raptor Trust in Millington, a facility that nurses injured birds back to health. Luckily, the eaglet wasn’t hurt, just weakened after its ordeal. After recovering at the center, the eaglet was ready to fly in the wild and was released in a park along the Hackensack River.

Without the community coming together, Torino worried that the eagles may have abandoned the nest in the early going. “It really is a corny Hallmark story, you couldn’t make it up,” he says. “It all came together perfectly, the neighbors just adopted them and looked out for them.”

Though some bird watchers believe they had spotted the young eagle, it’s uncertain whether or not it will return to the area. “It is kind of like looking for a needle in a hay stack,” says Torino. “We might see it in the winter, we might even see it now, but there is no way of telling where it will go.”

The nest in Bogota is now vacant, but hopes are high that the eagles will return next winter.

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