PAWS Magazine

Issue 38, Summer 1998

Bald eagle siblings spend Independence Day at PAWS

A Tacoma-area bald eagle nest, weighed down by two eaglets, blew down in early July.

Two young bald eagles recently spent the Fourth of July at PAWS Wildlife Center. Their nest had fallen down near its Lake Steilacoom location, stranding the eaglets.

"Both were dehydrated and thin as a result of spending several days on the ground," says Wildlife Center Director Jeanne Wasserman, "and one had a broken leg." The Wildlife Center set the broken leg of the injured eaglet on July 10, and plans to return the other bird to its nest. The injured eaglet will remain at PAWS until the December salmon spawning season on the Skagit River, when the eaglet will be released.

Wasserman says that one of the most common myths that the Wildlife Center addresses is the fallacy that if a person puts a young bird back in a nest, the mother bird will reject it. "It’s a total myth," says Wasserman. "We’ve even put red-tailed hawks and various owls in foster nests, and the birds were accepted."

Because the uninjured eaglet was relatively healthy, returning it to its nest is the most appropriate road to recovery. For the injured eaglet, the recovery process will be a little slower. While its leg heals, it will be kept in a safe environment within the Wildlife Center. After the leg heals, it will be transferred to a large flight cage located on the grounds behind the Wildlife Center.

The perfect time to release young eagles is during the Skagit River salmon spawning season because of the ready abundance of food. Rehabilitated eagles that have not completely honed their hunting skills are therefore at much less risk of going hungry.

Before the eagle’s release, it will be fitted with a radio transmitter mounted on a tail feather. "We go up there several times a week to track them," says Wasserman. By radio-tracking eagles, PAWS is able to determine whether their behavior is normal, if they are able to find and catch food, and if they are migrating at the appropriate time of year.

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