Eagle or osprey? Bird of prey's visit sparks debate
by Al Sullivan Reporter senior staff writer
Dec 24, 2004 | 822 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joann Dost was inside the Highways building on Hobart Avenue in Bayonne when she heard an incredible shrieking outside.

"I didn't know what it was," she said.

But she ran outside into the parking lot with several other people and saw a flock of crows swirling around in the air, giving chase to a much larger bird that she at first thought had to be a hawk.

"He must have raided one of the nests," she said standing in the parking lot after forty minutes had transpired and the conflict continued, hawks diving at the larger bird with the incredible audacity of outraged mothers seeking to take back a kidnapped child. But try as they might, the crows could not dislodge the victim from the powerful talons, even though victim was still apparently alive.

Others, who had gathered in the drive way struggled to make out the kind of bird it was, convinced the bird of prey was some kind of eagle.

Jack Catman, who had seen eagles previously, said the shape of the head and body were those of an eagle, although bird watcher, Peter Clark - who had brought out a book on birds - said this bird looked too small, and believed it might have been an osprey.

A typical Eagle is about 32 inches long with a wing span of about 80 inches. An Osprey is smaller about 22 inches long with a wing span of 54 inches.

"I think he's a young eagle," Catman insisted, squinting up at the light pole on which the bird of prey had landed and where the bird began to shred the flesh of its victim.

One woman on the ground kept shaking her head in dismay, saying, "I know this is part of nature, but I can't help thinking this is cruel."

Shirley-Ann, who would not give her last name, but had recently moved to Bayonne, called the spectacle exciting, saying the bird of prey had only added to the excitement of her first few months in Bayonne.

"First we have Tom Cruise coming to town to make a movie," she said. "Now we have an eagle. I actually think the eagle is more exciting. Tom Cruise is too short."

But she admitted that the movie making and the eagle added to Bayonne's appeal.

"All I have to do is poke my nose out the front door to find an adventure," she said.

Rose Gonzalez, who had also stopped to stare at the bird perched high up at the top of the telephone pole looked startled each time the bird yanked on its victim. Squinting against the bright sky, she said she believed the bird looked like an eagle.

Clark, however, argued that while eagles did make their way to Bayonne from time to time, they usually came down with the ice flows from the Passaic and Hackensack rivers into Newark Bay. While he conceded it could be a young eagle, he concluded it was not.

Ospreys are residents of the area, attracted to the Hackensack Meadowlands where the improving environment provided more abundant prey. Several years ago, PSE&G along with the Hackensack Riverkeeper set up a program that installed nesting stations throughout the wetlands where the birds might set down during their migration south. A few years ago, bird watchers reported that a mating pair of ospreys had settled into the Meadowlands - considered a strong sign of the area's recovery from years of pollution.

Clark, in trying to make his case, pointed towards the top of the pole and the while head and chest typical features found on an eagle.

"I believe it's an eagle," he said, as he and other residents watched the bird of prey feed. Eventually, the bird finished its meal and with a great stretch of its wide and powerful wings soared into the air and was gone, leaving behind falling black feathers and an unresolved dispute over its identity.

Contact Al Sullivan at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com

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