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Vanderbilt Vision Returns


Yond Cassius over there has a lean and hungry look.

He thinks too much.

Men like him are dangerous.

 Julius Caesar; Act I Scene1


More than a century ago, shipping magnate William K. Vanderbilt had a bungalow-sized bachelor retreat built on the large tract of land that he purchased on the northern end of Centerport peninsula.

By 1935, his modest haven had been expanded to a 24-room mansion known as “Eagle’s Nest.” It was a massive home with a private museum, golf course, boathouse, seaplane hangar and other luxurious amenities. At a comfortable distance from the legendary concentration of Gold Coast estates located closer to New York City, Vanderbilt was comforted by the abundant wildlife with whom he shared his bucolic Centerport location. So captured by the north shore’s plentiful nature, he named his site “Eagle’s Nest,” – a designation that continues to this day.

Upon his death in 1944, Eagle’s Nest was deeded to Suffolk County. It is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Sites.

Now, more than a hundred years later, Vanderbilt’s name for his majestic hideaway is more prophetic than he could have possibly imagined.

The eagles have returned to Centerport!

Perched high above the shoreline of Mill Pond, a designated New York State tidal basin and estuary bordering Centershore Road, there’s a newly constructed “Eagle’s Nest.” Not the kind built by Mr. Vanderbilt, but a REAL eagle’s nest; – complete with a REAL eagle family!

Overlooking Mill Pond, the new residents have a bird’s eye view from their treetop hideaway adjacent to Chalet Motor Inn’s parking lot. In recent weeks, they’ve been photographed and video-taped ( energetically fishing while preparing their nest for the spring-time arrival of a family addition. It’s easy to see their home from the Chalet parking lot off Route 25A. It’s a large structure, located high in a tall tree above a small pond. Naturalists advise that the nest will be reused and added to every year, often becoming eight or more feet deep, six feet across, and weighing hundreds of pounds.

And they’re not alone! They join a plethora of blue heron, osprey, fox, deer, turtles, and pheasant who live in an around Mill Pond, too.

According to the National Zoo website, eagles construct their nests near water using large sticks. The nest is usually lined with twigs, grasses and other soft materials. Since these nests are used year after year, they may become up to 13 feet tall and ten feet across. Young eagles remain in the nest for ten to twelve weeks after hatching and are closely cared for by both parents. At 6 weeks, they’re old enough to fly, yet have a relatively long period of immaturity ahead of them.

Bald eagles can live up to 50 years in the wild. They mate for life and return each year to nest in the general area where they were born. Once a pair selects a nesting territory, they use it for the rest of their lives.

Like many wild creatures, bald eagles suffer from human errors. Their reproductive system can be impaired by pesticides like DDT and heavy metals. In addition, persistent and toxic compounds found in fish living in contaminated waters can build up to high-levels in an eagle’s body, interfering with the deposition of calcium in the eggshells and making their eggs infertile. According to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) “extensive human activity within preferred eagle habitats has disturbed important nest areas, resulting in reproductive failure and nest abandonment.”

New York State DEC lists the bald eagle as an endangered species ( and has strict regulations governing its protection. Residents should report anyone harassing or injuring an eagle, or destroying their habitat to the Wildlife Diversity Unit, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or call 518-402-8920. Use this number to report injured or dead eagles, too.




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