It is with a heavy heart that I learned late yesterday of the passing of a local eaglet. The female Bald Eagle was the offspring of a pair of the majestic birds that I had closely watched and photographed for the past six months.
I first discovered the parents at the end of January as they worked on a nest near the intersection of a highway and relatively major street. Despite the high profile location, they went relatively unnoticed and I routinely visited them in the following months as they courted and worked on their new home.
The pair provided many extraordinary photo opportunities and I became quite familiar with them, and they with me I like to believe. We spent many hours in each other’s presence, me thoroughly enjoying their presence, they not minding mine.
The latter half of March it was apparent the female had laid at least one egg as she spent her time sitting on the nest, rarely leaving. That put an end to me visiting them other than to watch from afar as I wanted to be sure to give them their space and not endanger their eggs.
By May the little one was visible and she grew quickly over the next couple of months. She was expected to fledge around the first part of July and as the time got closer, so did the public attention.
The Raptor Education Foundation (REF) put out a very public call on all local news media for people to start watching the eaglet. The very real concern was that her first flight could take her onto the highway.
She was slow to take that first flight and finally did this past Monday. Thankfully she went into a nearby field and seemed to be okay.
However, her parents ignored her and even after being moved closer to the nest by the raptor group Tuesday, she was alone. Yesterday, Wednesday, came the news that the eaglet was found to be very ill and soon passed away. The statement from REF is pasted below.
I can’t help but have a heavy heart today.
Many early mornings were spent sitting in the winter cold watching them for hours. I have shot hundreds of pictures of them and felt like I had gotten to know them, and they me as well.
My kids oftentimes went with me and it was great to share the experience. My daughter had even named the new arrival “Heritage” – a fitting name for such a majestic bird. She and her parents have given me and my family so much joy.
The chances of a bald eagle surviving its first year of life are less than 50% so in some ways this isn’t surprising; that however is little consolation.
I hope they try again this coming winter and establish a new heritage of eaglets at the nest.
Writer’s note: As the statement from REF indicates, a necropsy will be performed to try to determine the cause of death. I can’t help but wonder if the tremendous increase in traffic in the area created by the group that put out the public call didn’t cause undue stress on the eagle family and contribute in some way.
At times there were more than a dozen cars lining the street and the news media made many appearances. It seems to me there would have been other ways to get volunteers without potentially putting the birds at risk.
While the location of the nest was hardly a secret given its vicinity to major roads, few members of the public knew of its existence. The time an eaglet fledges is critical and this layman can’t help but wonder if the increased attention didn’t contribute in some way.
On the net: