Celebrate Independence Day with Our National Bird

Bald eagles are spectacular birds. With white heads and tails contrasting with their dark brown bodies and their large size, they are the biggest bird in New York State.  Seeing a bald eagle in flight or perched on a tree can be the highlight of any trip to a state park.

Adult bald eagles are easy to identify, with their white heads and tails while juveniles (any eagle 4 years old or younger) have mottled white and brown wings and a brown body.

Juvenile bald eagle, photo by USFWS Mountain-Prairie [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The best places to look for bald eagles are near large bodies of water, such as a lake or river, where you may see them flying overhead or sitting in a tree looking for fish (or getting ready to steal a fish from an osprey).

If you are hoping to see an eagle this Fourth of July, check out one of these parks:

Peebles Island State Park

The island the eagles are nesting on is just across the river on another island (Goat Island), so there is no need to worry about disturbing the birds. It is about ½ mile (one way) moderate walk along the Perimeter Trail to the eagles’ nest. When you get to the where the trail splits after the fence, take a right and follow the Perimeter Trail until just after you get past the first dam. Look for the nest in a big oak tree on the island (Goat Island) to the left of the dam.

Our park maps are also on Google Maps, so it is easy to pull them up on a smart phone. If you were to walk the whole Perimeter Trail it is about a 2-mile loop, moderate with some rocks and roots in the trail. Below is a screen shot of Google Maps pointing out the nest location. Additionally, there is a park map at the trail head next to the parking area.

Bring binoculars if you have them to get a better look!

Aerial view of eagle’s nest at Peeble’s Island State Park

Robert Moses State Park (northern New York)

Bald eagles can be seen fishing from trees along the trails all the time.

Connetquot River State Park Preserve

Look for eagles flying over the Connetquot Main Pond near the Nature Center.

Bald_Eagle_Fly_By_Andy Morffew
Adult bald eagle in flight, photo by Andy Morffew.

Thacher State Park

At Thacher State Park visitors can view bald eagles at Thompson’s Lake Campground and Thacher Nature Center, both from the lakeshore or from the water. There is an active nest nearby and the eagles are often seen flying over the lake hunting for fish or roosting in trees along the shore.  Eaglets will be fledging soon.

Allegany State Park

Eagles often fish on Quaker Lake and Red House Lake.

Sammi at Trailside Museums and Zoo, photo courtesy of Palisades Park Commisssion

Bear Mountain State Park

The Trailside Museums and Zoo at Bear Mountain State Park is the home of Sammi the bald eagle.  Sammi (Samantha) was severely injured in 1984 and could not be released back to the wild after her injuries healed. She has been living at Trailside Museums and Zoo since 1985.  Click here to learn more about Sammi’s story.

If you do see an eagle this Independence Day, please let us know!


All About Birds, bald eagle

Featured image: By CheepShot (Carpentersville Dam) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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