One of the most interesting parts of our job is when community members call and report an injured animal, usually a bird or an eagle, on their property. We drop what we are doing to go to the bird’s rescue.
A few weeks ago, a man named Tony Smith called us about a bird on his property that he thought was injured. He called the OSU Extension office and got our number from Lynn Moore who recently saw a presentation about eagles when she visited the aviary last fall with a group.
Tony lives by the Little River between Tecumseh and Asher, Oklahoma, where it rained a substantial amount the week before. He noticed a grounded bird and checked on him for four days, but the bird never moved out of this spot and was surrounded by water.
He thought it was an eagle.
From his description we thought it could be a juvenile bald eagle, possibly a fledgling which is an eagle that recently left the nest.
Since we opened the doors of the aviary, we’ve gotten calls like this and it has never been an eagle. It’s always been another bird.
This time though, it was a bald eagle.
The young eagle, who still had brown feathers on his head, was surrounded by muddy water. We trudged through waist-high red sludge to retrieve him before we loaded back up and transported the eagle back to the aviary to do an initial exam and clean him up.
Once we could actually see the eagle we knew it was not a fledgling because the feathers had started turning white on his head. Since his beak and eyes had begun to transition to yellow, we felt like he was definitely three years old. After having the eagle in hand we feel like it was a male because he was small. Female eagles, owls and falcons are always larger than males.
There were no obvious signs of injury and no breaks could be felt but he was very thin. We placed him in a kennel and offered him food and he ate very well the first night and next morning.
We transported him to WildCare in Noble, Oklahoma the following day. After further exam and x-rays there they found no breaks and seemed in good condition overall other than being thin. We think he ended up grounded as a result of something that happened during the storms. He may have been blown from the tree or grounded in the hail and strained his wings trying to fly after being soaked and caked in mud.
We couldn’t keep the eagle at the aviary because we don’t have our rehabilitation permit yet, but we are thankful to WildCare for being such a great partner and being so close to the aviary. They will keep him separated from the other eagles living there for a while so he can gain weight and get healthy.
After he gains weight, he will be transferred to a larger pen with other birds. There will be a monthly evaluation and in six months or longer, he will be conditioned to fly. We hope that he progresses well and is released soon!
We are thankful that this OSU Extension staff member knew who to call when she heard about the eagle because of the education she received at the aviary. We will continue to educate the community and beyond about these beautiful creatures. If you see an eagle or animal that seems injured, give us a call at (405) 863-5623.
Jennifer Randall, Aviary Manager