Tuesday, April 19, 2011
First Baby of the Season!
This Sunday we admitted our first baby patient of the season, and he's not your ordinary baby! He is a baby Bald Eagle with quite a story to tell. The tree his nest was in was destroyed by a storm south of Madison, WI, and he plummeted 30 feet to the ground, sustaining a head injury along the way. This young eagle isn't even 10 days old and already has had a tumultuous life.
A couple had been watching his family for quite some time; when they noticed he was in trouble they watched for his parents to return with no avail. He was taken to Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital in Lake Geneva, WI where he was cared for by Yvonne Wallace Blane. Many times, wildlife rehabilitation centers will work together in numerous ways to do what is best for the animals they are caring for. Fellow Mortals does not currently have a foster Bald Eagle to care for chicks, but we do here at REGI so Yvonne kept the best interest of the eaglet in mind and transferred him to us.
The eaglet is so fragile that even transportation is an issue. To drive the eaglet from Lake Geneva to here in Antigo would take upwards of 4 hours; much too long for the little tyke. Instead, a private airplane was arranged! take the tiny eagle on his first-ever flight. What other eagle can say that he had his first flight at less than 10 days of age?!
Photo above: We were all waiting anxiously for Dave and the Eaglet to arrive. Finally on the horizon, we see a plane!
Photo above: As soon as the airplane landed at the Langlade County Airport in Antigo, WI, we all rushed to greet pilot, Dave and "co-pilot" eaglet. "The Eagle has landed!" shouted an airport attendant in a moment of humor and excitement.
Photo above: Smiles all around when we see them both safe and sound.
Normally we do not name the patients that are candidates for release, but we can always make an exception for someone who has helped the patient directly.
Dave suggested, "You should name this eagle Peeps."
Marge asked him, "Was he peeping the whole flight up?"
Dave said, "No... It's just good Easter candy!" .... A funny guy, that Dave , but appropriate for the upcoming holiday. ;)
Photo above: Because the eaglet is so young and fragile, he needed to be examined right there at the airport. His flight only lasted about an hour and a half, but he was hungry and needed to be fed as well. Marge prepares to bring him out of his carrier, when we find that he brought a friend...
Photo above: The eaglet was traveling with this teddy bear! At this age, the eaglet would normally be cuddled up next to his siblings and kept warm by his parents. Because he lost those things in the storm, this teddy bear provided some of that comfort he may have been missing.
Photo above: You can see everyone is all a twitter about this bundle of joy. From left to right, former intern and volunteer for the day, Katie Rhymer; wildlife educator, Karissa Mohr; Marge's grandchildren Maddie and Hunter; Marge Gibson; and Pilot,
Photo above: A quick exam and a few moments of adoration. This is the first and only time he will see his human caretakers for an extended period so we must get in these moments while we can. When he arrives at REGI, he will no longer be handled or fed by humans, only his foster parents. We will step in only when necessary.
Photo above: Pilot, Dave
Photos above: It might be difficult to imagine this darling ball of fluff as our National bird, adorning our currency, but soon he will trade in his fuzzy head for sleek adult feathers. He will grow to adult size within a couple months; however, it will take him a full 5 years to develop the iconic white head and tail we all recognize as America's symbol.
This is a very sensitive age for any bird. The first few days after hatching are critical and will determine how the rest of their lives will go. If young animals are fed or handled exclusively by humans for an extended period of time they can become imprinted. This means that they associate humans with food. It doesn't seem like such a big deal when they are young, but if an imprinted animal were to be released back into the wild, they would be confused about who they are and could put themselves and humans in harm's way by seeking us out for food, help, and even mates. We could never release an imprinted bird and they would need to be placed in an education facility.
To avoid imprinting we are introducing him to foster parents. This is a tricky maneuver that must be done delicately. We have created a personalized crate and have provided him with a mirror so he can see "other" eaglets sitting with him. We have also introduced him into a foster parent's enclosure. This way the eaglet is protected inside his crate but he can see the adult eagle.
He will soon be introduced to an open nest with his foster parents. A resident Bald Eagle has been laying unfertilized eggs and we will place him in the nest in hopes that the foster mother assumes her egg has hatched and will care for him as if he is her own. Fostering birds always presents a risk that the parents will reject, or in a worst-case scenario, kill the baby. REGI has had many successes with fostering raptors in the past and we are hopeful.
There is the possibility of finding a nest of wild Bald Eagles to place him into, but this also has to be done delicately. The eaglets in the nest have to be the same age as the eaglet being placed into the nest and the new eaglet must not be a burden to an already full nest. We are working with biologist to find the perfect nest, but because of the horrible weather we have been experiencing lately, finding a wild nest that can support an additional eaglet seems unlikely a this point.
Photo above: The eaglet is settling into his special crate looking at his "sibling" in the mirror. If you look closely, you can see a mouse tail peeking out of his mouth from his most recent meal and his bulging crop full of yummy mouse meat. (Photo credit: Marge Gibson)
This photo was taken two days after all of the other photos and you can see how much he has grown in that short time. Although still unable to stand, he is growing stronger every day and is able to sit much more upright today. I am constantly amazed by how quickly and robustly young birds can grow. Because they're growing so fast, young birds eat a lot. At this age, this eaglet can eat the equivalent of 20 to 25 mice per day! At about 50 cents to a dollar per mouse, feeding growing raptors is a VERY expensive endeavor. Young raptors also benefit from feeding on chipmunks, rats, squirrels, etc. If you have a problem with rodent pests at your home, please think of us. If you humanely collect them WITHOUT POISON, and store them in the freezer, we can use them to keep our young raptors alive.
If you would like to donate food items please call (715) 623-2563. If you would like to provide a monetary donation follow this link and click on the "donate" button.
REGI Wildlife Educator