Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

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Golden Eagle Free to Fly!

(Golden Eagle Rescued from lead poisoning and released in New York on March 29, 2001.)

Contributed by Peter Nye
New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Bill Streeter holding Eagle #004 while Peter Nye adjusts her band.

Bill Streeter bent low, and then with a mighty spring upwards thrust Eagle #004 into the air. Three months in captivity didn't seem to phase this eagle, as she cut through the Adirondack air with strong wing-beats to a nearby tree, free again at last!

Thus ended the nearly fatal saga of immature Golden Eagle 004. But as the nearly tragic saga is hopefully ended, we get to share in her new saga, as the first golden eagle from New York to ever be tracked by satellite (there have only been a handful anywhere).

It was just two days before Christmas last year, when 004 was picked up along a roadside in Hamilton County, NY, alive, but unable to fly. Quick, caring efforts by the Fulton County Sheriff's Department, New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation Police officers Scott Florence and Bill Pitcher, and local wildlife rehabilitator Anne Morgan, soon found 004 in the very qualified hands of medical staff of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Health Center at the Bronx Zoo.

Eagle 004 couldn't have been luckier. Given just a couple more days in the wild, she would have been a dead bird. The diagnosis of lead-poisoning came quickly; the cure did not. For five weeks veterinarian Marie Rush and staff of the Health Center painstakingly rid 004 of her lead, and patiently provided physical therapy to prevent her muscles and joints from seizing up. In all a very slow and expensive process.

By early February, #004 was well enough to leave the intensive care of the Health Center, and she was transferred to the Delaware Valley Raptor Center in Milford , PA for pre-release conditioning under the expert eyes and guidance of Bill and Stephanie Streeter. Again, lucky break for 004!

After six weeks of flight-training in a large flight cage, followed by flight-training on a creance (pronounced kree- ounce), like a long fishing line, 004's muscles were again in top shape and she was declared "ready to go."

We banded 004, placed the radio transmitter on her, and released her on 29 March back within two miles of where she was recovered in northern NY. Her intial flights were strong and true to course, and she is now on her own. Lucky for us, however, we get to "watch" as 004 gets reacquainted with the wild.

You might be interested in some additional background on golden eagles here in the east and in New York.

First, they are much rarer in the eastern US than bald eagles, and as a matter of fact, there are NO golden eagles nesting anywhere in the eastern United States east of the Mississippi River! (They are quite common in the western US though.) There used to be a few nesting in New York and most recently in Maine, but no longer.

We do however get migrant golden eagles moving through the east and New York, as this one undoubtedly was. We have always wondered where they come from, where they go, and how long they stay here.

We see them occasionally feeding at our bait stations when bald eagle trapping in the winter. All of these goldens are spring, fall and winter visitors only, again indicating they are not nesting here.

We know there are many golden eagles nesting in parts of eastern Canada, and that is where we believe our migrants come from. Eagle 004 is only about 3 years old, so is not yet a breeder. Nonetheless, it will be fascinating to follow here travels over the next couple of years to see where she hails from, and to watch as she passes into adult-hood. Stayed tuned to Journey North with us and find out!

One immediate question I have, as I'm sure others do, is whether 004 will stay around her release area for a while and "get her bearings," or whether she will take right off and "blow out" of the area as we say ?? It's going to be interesting! As you can tell from this story, MANY, MANY people gave tremendously of their time, talents and resources to get 004 back into the air; it has indeed been a "team" effort. As I said, 004 is one lucky eagle.

--Eagleye Nye--

Peter E. Nye
Endangered Species Unit
NYS Dept. Environmental Conservation
Wildlife Resources Center

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