Golden Eagle Free to Fly!
Eagle Rescued from lead poisoning and released in New York on March 29,
by Peter Nye
York Department of Environmental Conservation
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!
Streeter holding Eagle #004 while Peter Nye adjusts her band.
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
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.
Peter E. Nye
Endangered Species Unit
Dept. Environmental Conservation
Wildlife Resources Center
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