The comeback of the Bald Eagle is arguably one of New York’s best conservation success stories. Following the banning of DDT in the 1970s, the number of eagles in New York and other states has been steadily increasing. Today, they are not difficult to find – if you know where to look.
Recently, one Bald Eagle in particular caused quite a stir while visiting New York City’s Riverside Park. While not unheard of, the Big Apple is definitely not the top place you’d go to see eagles in New York.
Check out some of the more commonplace eagle-siting spots below. Happy birding!
Central New York and the Finger Lakes –
In case you didn’t hear, Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, NY, is no longer known for its pollution but for its flourishing wildlife! Thanks to a massive cleanup effort by the Onondaga Lake Conservation Corps, of which Audubon is a partner, the lake is now better-known for being home to the state’s largest winter roost of Bald Eagles; over 50 eagles have been seen gathered at the lake’s south end!
Other spots include Irondequoit Bay, Lake Shore Marshes Wildlife Management Area, Braddock Bay Raptor Research – all just outside of Rochester in the Finger Lakes Region – as well as the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, home of the Montezuma Audubon Center and a Bald Eagle pair that’s claimed a vacant Osprey nest on a nearby cell tower.
Western New York–
We've been excited to see an increasing number of Bald Eagles nesting in Chautauqua County. Areas where eagles becoming an increasingly common sight include the Audubon Community Nature Center's Big Pond, where they are frequently spotting hunting for ducks, fish and muskrats (there are three separate photo blinds and overlooks to help people get a good view), McCrea Point Park, and Point Gratiot Park on Lake Erie in Dunkirk. City Pier Park also frequently has Bald Eagles flying past, and winter eagles have been spotted roosting in trees and congregating on the ice near the park–up to 70 at one time!
At the Beaver Meadow Audubon Center in North Java near Buffalo, three to four Bald Eagles are spotted every week from the dock on the beaver pond--no binoculars needed! Eagles can also be spotted at and around the Iroquois National Wildilfe Refuge, and Strawberry Island in the Niagara River.
The Hudson River, and anywhere that provides an overlook, is a good place to go looking for eagles. Croton Point State Park, located in Westchester County, fits this bill and is accessible year-round to offer good birding.
Other downstate locations include Alley Pond Park Environmental Center in Queens, and Constitution Marsh Sanctuary and Audubon Center in Garrison, which also offers good views of the Hudson River and has Audubon staff on hand to help answer any birding questions you may have.
Long Island –
Mill Pond, on Long Island’s North Fork, may be small but fish are plentiful – attracting hungry eagles! Another north shore spot is Caumsett State Historic Park, which contains a designated Bird Conservation Area (BCA).
On the south shore of Long Island, the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge is a definite eagle hot-spot. While parts of the refuge are sometimes closed to protect nesting eagles, the birds can still be viewed from a distance with binoculars or spotting scopes.
Cohoes Falls, located in Cohoes, NY, is a waterfall on the Mohawk River. The overlook to the falls provides not only a fantastic view, but also the opportunity to see spectacular numbers of Bald Eagles during the winter months. During very cold periods when much of the river is frozen over, there have been reports of more than 20 eagles congregating here at one time.
If you don’t see any eagles at Cohoes Falls, check downstream around Peebles Island, or upstream at Crescent Park in Halfmoon.
For those just passing through, an observant traveler can easily spot a dozen or more eagles from a riverside seat on the Amtrak train between Albany-Rensselaer and New York City.
Please keep in mind the follow eagle watching etiquette, wherever your birding adventure may take you.
- Remain in or immediately next to your vehicle, and don't approach eagles closer than a quarter mile. Avoid roosting areas.
- Refrain from loud noises: honking horns, door slamming, radios playing, yelling, etc.
- Keep pets at home.
- Use binoculars or spotting scopes instead of trying to get a little closer.
- Don't do anything to try to make the bird fly.
- Respect private property and avoid restricted areas.