Fallen eaglet does fine with little human intervention

The Shiloh Military Park eaglet on the ground on April 25. NPS PHOTO/MEKOW
By : 
Lisa Brainard
Bluff Country Reader

Last week we looked at the nest situation of Decorah’s bald eagles. The father has been gone since the last of April’s snowstorms; the mom is caring for the three eaglets; and an unidentified male eagle has been close by, perhaps courting her.

Eyes are glued to the evolving activity on the Decorah eagle cam. Find more information at www.raptorresource.org/birdcams/decorah-eagles/

But it’s not the only eagle nest or drama by far. In my daily perusal of outdoor sites online, I found an interesting story of an eaglet that fell out of its nest. It has a good lesson on the need for people finding wild babies that seem all alone to just let them be. Leave them alone.

This story comes from Shiloh National Military Park, a Civil War site in Tennessee and Mississippi. The news release issued April 28 follows:

“A few days ago one of the eagle chicks fell out of its nest. Consequently, the park closed the area around the eagle’s nest to all public use and access in order to provide a safe area for the bird and to allow adequate space for the eagle parents to take care of the chick. We’ve had a lot of interest in the welfare of the chick, so we are providing this update.

“On April 24, at approximately 5:30 p.m., observers in the area saw the chick fall from the nest onto the ground. Park rangers responded and immediately began a visual evaluation of the bird. In addition, the park made contact with both TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) and Dr. James Huggins, professor of biology at Union University, a specialist in raptor species. Based on our evaluation and consultations, we decided the best course of action was to close the immediate area and to wait until the following day to recheck the status of the eaglet.

“Early in the morning on April 25, rangers observed the chick stretching its wings and walking around the enclosed area around the nesting tree. Although the bird was walking with a slight limp, it otherwise appeared unhurt and alert. At that point, the decision was made to expand the closed area and to continue to observe the bird’s behavior for any signs of distress.

“By the morning of April 26, rangers found the eaglet sitting under the forest canopy, perched on a fallen tree, roughly 25 yards south of the enclosure and near equal distance east of the Hamburg-Savannah road. Other than being wet from the rain, the chick appeared healthy and its observed behavior was normal. One of the parents was observed on-site watching over both eaglets. Later in the afternoon, the eaglet was found perched on the split-rail fence at southwest corner of enclosure, this time with both parents in view. Note that the fencing is about 3-feet high, so the eaglet would have jumped up onto the rail – a good sign of its mobility.

“On the afternoon of April 27, rangers observed the bird walking on the Hamburg-Savannah Road about 50 yards south of the enclosure, and the eaglet is exhibiting normal behavior. It is a little early for this bird to be out of the nest but spending time on the ground is normal for the species. Many first flights for eagles are often awkward, with up to half of fledging attempts less than successful. Consequently, when young birds do leave the nest, they frequently become stuck on the ground for several days until such time as they learn to fly. The adults expect this to happen, and typically continue to feed and protect grounded chicks.

“The second chick remains in the nest, and is exhibiting ‘branching’ behavior, practicing short hops on and around the nest, gaining strength and improving his agility. Sitting in the branches of his home tree is a natural lead-up to fledging.

“We appreciate all of the interest in the welfare of the eagles, and we’ll continue to provide updates as more information is available. Park visitors are reminded that this area is closed to all public use and access, including a portion of the Hamburg-Savannah Road and Brown’s Landing Road leading to the Shiloh National Indian Mounds.”

For more on the military park, go to www.nps.gov/shil/index.htm. For more on the eaglet and possible road closures due to it being on the ground, click on “Alerts” in the menu. However, let’s hope it will be flying by the time you read this.

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this column weekly for about 15 years.