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The majestic bald eagle has returned to Long Island: learn about the remarkable comeback at Audubon Society talk

Stock photo: Fotolia

Have you been lucky enough to spot a bald eagle in our local skies? There have been more and more local sightings of the majestic bird as it soars overhead seeking a meal of fish. Even nesting pairs have been observed.

Learn about this amazing bird and how it has staged one of the most remarkable conservation success stories of our time at a talk to be hosted by the North Fork Audubon Society on April 21. The Nature Conservancy’s Mike Scheibel will discuss how bald eagles are repopulating Long Island after nearly 100 years of absence. The talk will take place at the Peconic Lane Community Center at 7:30 p.m. that evening.

Bald eagles once prospered in New York, with more than 70 nesting pairs living in the state year-round and several hundred more spending the winter here. But the widespread use of pesticides in the mid-20th century, particularly the insecticide DDT, diminished New York’s population of bald eagles to near extinction.

By the time DDT was banned in 1972, New York’s bald eagle population had already dwindled to just one nesting pair. In 1975, the New York State DEC launched its bald eagle restoration project , during which almost 200 nesting bald eagles from Alaska and other states were transported to New York and hand-reared until they had adjusted to their new home.

The project was a success. Ten breeding pairs – which are pairs of male and female bald eagles that are actively breeding – were established in New York by the end of the program in 1989. More than 170 pairs are nesting in New York today. Those eagles, however, settled mostly upstate.It was not until about 10 years ago that bald eagles were spotted on Long Island again.

Scheibel’s presentation will cover various aspects of natural history, the former abundance of bald eagles in New York and how the population of our national bird was restored.

Mike Scheibel

Scheibel has been the natural resources manager at Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island since 1996. Prior to working for the conservancy, Scheibel was a senior wildlife biologist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. During the nearly two decades he worked at the Bureau of Wildlife, in addition to working in traditional game species management with white-tailed deer and waterfowl, he initiated the local endangered species program, surveying and managing a diverse group of non-game species including osprey, bald eagle, piping plover and tiger salamander. He served as the New York State representative on the federal Roseate Tern Recovery Team and was one of the original authors of the Roseate Tern Recovery Plan, 1989.

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