Peter Nye's Research Goals
30 Years of Eagle Research in New York State

Thirty Years of Eagle Research: Why?

Eagle researcher
Peter (Eagleye) Nye

We have been studying eagles in New York State for over 30 years now. Why? Initially we wanted to:

  • document how many eagles historically nest here
  • identify the problems they had—and may still have
  • assess current habitat conditions for their return

As time went on and the population of eagles grew, our focus shifted:

  • We wanted to explore and refine techniques for the re-establishment of eagles to our state.
  • We want to monitor numbers, to identify essential habitats *, and to identify broad-scale movement patterns.

Bald Eagles
Much of our work to identify essential habitat and movement patterns has focused on wintering eagles.
  • Are these birds year-round residents of NY state?
  • Where are these birds coming from?
  • When do they arrive and depart from New York?
  • Do they come to the same areas year after year?
  • What are their critical night-roosting, daytime feeding and daytime perching areas?

Eagle habitats are of vital importance to our wintering eagle population. Conservationists call them essential or critical habitats. * Knowing what habitats these birds use, we can then determine if the areas are threatened and might be lost. If so, we can try to protect them.

Journal Questions:
In what ways might eagles lose their day and night-time habitats? How do many animals lose their habitat? How can we protect critical habitats of eagles?

Critical Habitats Along the Upper Delaware River
Our focus for wintering eagle research has now shifted to the Upper Delaware River. Here we have launched a multi-year study in partnership with the National Park Service (Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River). We want to define essential habitats used by eagles along the Upper Delaware. This study will also include breeding eagles in this area and their young. You can follow our winter eagle research through our DEC website or on the Internet.

Critical Habitat All Along the Migration Route

Spring 2008 map showing migration routes of eagles

We're also trying to locate similar critical habitats

  1. along the migration routes
  2. on the breeding grounds of these eagles

We have learned that many New York wintering birds are coming from similar areas in Canada—breeding areas that may not be known by the Canadian and Provincial governments, and that might also need protection. Thanks to satellite radios that can operate for multiple years, we have learned a great deal about 'fidelity' to these sites and routes. We have learned that these eagles use their wintering areas, migratory routes and nesting areas with substantial faithfulness year after year.

Journal Question:
If you take a road trip to visit someone do you often stop at the same places along the way to eat or spend the night? Eagles do this, too! We can learn where they stop because they are wearing satellite tracking devices.

New Research
After more than 30 years Nye's eagle field work has slowed recently and he and his staff have turned their attention to a study of short-eared owls, which, similar to the eagles, descend into New York each winter from the north, and winter in grasslands there. Protection of these grasslands has become another important research goal.

Research Highlights at the New York State Dept.of Environmental Conservation
Keep up with the latest Bald eagle research reports published by the DEC.
  • DEC announces Results of 2008 Bald Eagle Breeding Season >>
  • Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey >>

Eagle Eye Nye
New York State Dept. Environmental Conservation
Delmar, NY