Liz Jozwiak, KNWR wildlife biologist releases the rehabilitated eaglet near its fallen nest.
On August 2nd Liz Jozwiak, wildlife biologist at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge received a call that a motorist had seen a distressed eaglet along the side of the road that was unable to fly and appeared to have a broken wing. Jozwiak responded to the call and captured the bird, “The reason we picked up the bird is that we didn’t know where the nest was. The first thing we do when there is no visible injury is to try to return the bird to their nest or the vicinity of the nest when it comes to eaglets that are trying to fly. We picked this eaglet up because we didn’t know if it had any injuries but it had appeared to have fallen from its nest which we were unable to locate. We first attempted to find a local veterinarian to do an x-ray of the bird but were unable to find anyone able to x-ray a bird so we transferred the eaglet to Bird Treatment & Learning Center (TLC) in Anchorage where the bird was thoroughly examined and x-rayed for injuries,” reported Jozwiak.
After being released the young eaglet perches on a familiar stump near its fallen nest.
According to Cindy Palmatier, director of avian care at Bird TLC, the eaglet was found to be severely dehydrated and emaciated with blood chemistry issues but amazingly had no bone fractures. “When the bird was presented to us the red blood cell count was very low meaning that the bird just didn’t have enough bodily resources available for it to survive. We put him on intravenous fluids and provided lots of good nutrition and vitamins and got him up and going again,” said Palmatier.
An eaglet unable to fly was found in July on a road side.
While the eaglet was being rehabilitated at Bird TLC, Liz Jozwiak went to work to find the location of the nest and by talking with neighbors discovered that there used to be a nest near where the eaglet was found, but it had seemed to have disappeared. Upon site investigation Jozwiak located the nest that had been in a tree which was blown down during recent storms, “With the assistance of local residents we found the downed nest and spotted a sibling eaglet and adult eagle in the vicinity. Apparently the heavy rains combined with winds had caused the nest to come down from the tree where it was built. This provided us with an excellent opportunity to reintroduce the captured eaglet into its native surroundings once it had become strong enough to survive,” said Jozwiak. “It’s the best possible outcome when we can release a baby back to its habitat because we make lousy baby eagle mom’s,” laughed Palmatier.
In less than a month the baby eaglet was re-introduced to familiar surroundings and re-united with its older sibling near the downed nest. “Here on the Kenai our eagle population is not highly migratory and if they do move they will usually stay along the Kenai River, so we feel the odds are pretty good that the eaglet will find food with the late run of silver salmon and grow to be a successful adult,” added Jozwiak.
According to Jozwiak all migratory birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and she advises that residents not attempt to pick up injured birds, “Good Samaritans want to do the right thing, but sometimes the right thing is to leave them alone and call the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife agency which is responsible for the protection of migratory birds. There are local wildlife rehabilitators which are permitted and licensed to respond and care for injured migratory birds,” explained Jozwiak. The rehabilitated eaglet was not banded or attached to any monitoring device as that requires special permits says Jozwiak, “We try to minimize human contact with the birds and allow nature to take its course but we were interested in monitoring the eaglet after release to be sure that the family had reunited and from several observations we feel that it did and by now the eaglet probably has left the nest area and is moving around the area. The Bird TLC only has permits to rehabilitate birds and that does not include bands or monitoring devices.” Jozwiak also pointed out that while eagles may mate for life, they do not always return to the same nest location and that what might appear to be an abandoned nest might be utilized at another season. The Bird TLC in Anchorage is a non-profit predominately volunteer organization funded by individual donations with only three paid staff positions. Palmatier told the Dispatch that the cost to rehabilitate a bird can run anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars. For more information about Bird TLC call 907-562-4852 or go to www.birdtlc.com
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