Like Living with Dragons

Maureen Seaberg
8 min readMar 5, 2020

The only known nesting pair of bald eagles in New York City is the ultimate example of the raptors’ comeback in America

Mates for Life by Maureen Seaberg. Recent photo taken from a respectful distance with the powerful lens of the Nikon Coolpix P1000.


It is fitting that they like to perch atop the steeple cross of Old St. Joaquim and St. Anne’s R.C. Church at Mount Loretto on Staten Island — the house of worship immortalized in the powerful and violent “Godfather” baptism scene. Like Mario Puzo’s Michael Corleone, tenderly holding his niece in the sanctuary even as assassinations he ordered against rivals are carried out across the city, they gently raise offspring on the one hand and could crush all comers on the other — half holy seraphim, half mob boss.

Bird of Pray by Maureen Seaberg.

The mates for life are so resilient in their unlikely urban setting that they enthusiastically make love in public aloft an old smoke stack covered in cell phone antennae. Or perhaps they’ll climb a mile high, lock talons and purposefully fall to Earth in a death spiral mating ritual like this one over a parking lot. They put the brakes on just before hitting the asphalt, reported one astonished park-goer at Mount Loretto Unique Area just off busy Hylan Boulevard in their Prince’s Bay territory.

They sometimes sit in the trees on Main Street in Tottenville and eye shoppers passing by, says chiropractor Dr. Victoria Scarano. “My young son thinks they’re like blue jays — he has no idea our generation did not grow up with them.”

It is also fitting that our national birds greet dawn many mornings on the southernmost tip of Staten Island — and all of New York State — near the historic Conference House. There, a peace summit was held prior to the Revolutionary War, with Benjamin Franklin, Edward Rutledge, John Adams and Lord Richard Howe in attendance. John Adams would sway the other founding fathers to choose the bird as the national symbol, you’ll recall.

More than the approximately 15,000 other nesting pairs through the Lower 48 states — up from only 417 when the pesticide DDT nearly wiped them out — this pair of eagles epitomizes the comeback the mighty raptors have made since nearly going extinct. If you can make it in New York, as the saying goes…

Maureen Seaberg

Coauthor of Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel (HMH). Published in the New York Times, National Geographic, Psychology Today.