After Rough Landing, Eaglet Takes Wing
By SHELLY STECK REALE, Correspondent, TB Reporter
A baby bald eagle that fell from its nest a few weeks ago was released back into the wild Saturday (April 29).
ST. PETERSBURG – It’s baby bird season – that time of year were baby fledglings fall from the nest, often to be found by well-meaning Samaritans.
Matt Petron, 35, of St. Petersburg, is one of those Samaritans. But the baby bird he found wasn’t quite so tiny.
After hearing a loud bang while he was at work, Petron went outside to find juvenile bald eagle on the ground by his truck.
“It looked like a baby to me. I thought maybe she was just stunned, but after about 10 minutes, I was like, okay, I’d better call somebody,” Petron said.
Just how big was this baby bird?
“If she was standing up,” Petron said, “she’d probably be about two feet tall.”
Despite her size, the fledging eagle is only 11 to 12 weeks old, according to Nancy Murrah, vice president of Tampa Bay Raptor Rescue.
“When she came out of the nest – the first time to fly – she just didn’t do well,” Murrah said.
The eaglet spent the next few weeks building up her strength and flying skills in a flight cage at the Raptor Rescue, a non-profit organization that rescues and releases injured or orphaned Florida native birds back into their natural environment.
She was reunited with her parents and siblings Saturday (April 29) when she was released in a St. Petersburg field near her nest. Murrah said the eaglet’s family would not only recognize her, but would accept her return.
“Eagles have great facial recognition and they always seem to know who their babies are. They’re great parents.They’ll even foster another baby that you put into the nest or into the area,” Murrah said.
But, she did return with some bling.
“There are two bands on her ankle. The silver one is U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The band that’s on the other leg is one of our projects, the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, where we are banding birds that come out of trees with one color, and birds that come out of a tower [cell towers, or other man-made structures] with a black band,” Murrah said.
“She is the first tower bird that has been banded, and that will allow us, over time, to track how well birds that are hatched in towers actually do versus those who are hatched in a natural structure.”
When released, the eaglet soared into the sky. But, the transition back to the wild wasn’t peaceful. Within seconds of take-off, she was dogged by territorial blackbirds.
A pesky nuisance, Murrah said, but nothing that should deter a happy family reunion.
To report a sick or injured bird, call the hotline at (727) 798-2385 in Pinellas or (813) 205-1851 in Hillsborough.
For information about Tampa Bay Raptor Rescue, go to tampabayraptorrescue.org.
Photos showing eaglet wearing a hood courtesy of Andrea Herman. Other photo by Shelly Steck Reale, TB Reporter correspondent.
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