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During the spring of this year, the region experienced an outbreak of severe weather in the form of thunderstorms that spawned tornadoes in a couple of locations and damaging winds in many other areas. Aside from property damage and downed trees blocking roads, there was another less obvious consequence: Some of the region’s bald eagle nests were lost. These massive nests, which are usually 90 feet or higher in the nest tree, magnify the wind stress on the tree. In some cases, the nest itself was blown down, but in others, the entire tree was lost.
When an eagle’s nest collapses, any adults in the nest will fly, but eaglets not yet able to fly fall to the ground. Some of the eaglets caught in this situation do not survive the fall; some survive but incur injuries; and a lucky few reach the ground uninjured. After the storm occurred, wildlife conservation officials as well as volunteer nest monitors in the region checked nests and were able to rescue a few of the eaglets of affected nests.
Bill Streeter, director of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center (DVRC), says that the center took in nine eagles this year for rehabilitation; many of those were injured in the storm. A few eaglets that were injured were treated successfully and recovered enough to be released back into the wild. One of these success stories was an eight-week-old male that was rescued near Wappingers Falls, NY, and brought to DVRC by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The eaglet had fallen on to the ground and suffered a fractured tibiotarsus bone (equivalent to the tibia/fibula in your leg just below the knee). The eaglet also had an open wound on its left leg below the fracture.
The fracture was treated and healed; the open sore healed; and soon after, this bird was put in a flight enclosure to enable it to strengthen its wing muscles and practice flying. After some training on a long cord, called a creance, to assess the eagle’s ability to make longer flights outdoors, it was deemed ready for release into the wild. On October 4, it was brought to a quiet place where other eagles and abundant food sources were located. The eagle was released and flew strongly, disappearing behind a tree line. In a conversation about a year ago, Streeter said this is one of the things he likes the most about being a wildlife rehabilitator: finally being able to release a bird after a long healing and rehabilitation process and watching it fly with purpose back into the wild. To learn more about the DVRC, visit http://www.dvrconline.org/