Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Tale of Two Eagles

Name: Rachel Dalton
Class Year: 2016
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Internship: Wildlife Hospital Intern, Ohio Wildlife Center
Location: Columbus, OH

Hello again! Now that spring is upon us, life has gotten much busier at the wildlife hospital. Baby bunny (eastern cottontail rabbit) season is now in full swing. It is not uncommon to get 10+ in a day. We have also been getting in a lot of baby squirrels, a few baby birds, and baby opossums (my personal favorite!). Baby waterfowl season is beginning as well; our first mallard ducklings came in this week.

A baby Virginia opossum. Image courtesy of
Orphaned baby wildlife is a big contributor to the spike in admissions we see in the spring. If you happen to find neonatal wildlife in your yard, we always strongly recommend that you evaluate whether it is actually orphaned. We have great wildlife hotline volunteers who can help you with this! We do our absolute best for the little ones that come through our door, but allowing wildlife moms to do their job whenever possible is the most ideal. FOX28 Good Day Columbus recently came to visit Ohio Wildlife Center to learn about this very subject. Here is a link to a clip from their visit featuring our Director of Educational Programming, Barbara Ray, demonstrating how to reunite baby birds with parents:

Baby bird reuniting clip!

If you have any questions about baby wildlife you have encountered and what you should do about it, you can check out Ohio Wildlife Center’s FAQ page and/or call our wildlife hotline at 614-793-9453. You can also learn more about orphaned wildlife in this article from Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been involved in a few different wildlife rescue missions. OWC does not generally have the resources/manpower available to go retrieve animals in distress (our fabulous hotline volunteers are great at walking people through how to handle and bring in animals safely!). However, a few unique situations came up recently that I was sent to go help with. These instances have involved two literal wild goose chases, and a Cooper's hawk that flew into a window. I really enjoy being able to use what I have learned about wildlife biology and handling not only at OWC, but also in the “real world”! Here is a picture of the Cooper’s hawk nestled in the box I brought him back to the hospital in:

He appeared to be stunned from his collision with the window when I first retrieved him, but I’m happy to say he was successfully rehabilitated and released!

Another recent success story was this redhead duck:

Redhead duck and I!
He came into the hospital back in February with an injury that made it difficult for him to walk. As he recovered part of his treatment plan involved physical therapy in the form of daily walks around the hospital. This is what I was in the process of doing with him when this picture was taken. I had not seen this species in person before, and they are very neat birds. I highly recommend looking up redhead duck vocalizations, as they sound somewhat like a kazoo!

Two bald eagles have been admitted to the hospital over the last few weeks. I have always considered them majestic birds, but I did not fully appreciate how incredible they are until having the opportunity to see them up close and work with them. When mentioning the eagles to friends I am often asked how we handle them, and my response is always very carefully! They are designed to hunt and be able to tear flesh, which is something we have to be mindful of when handling them and our other birds of prey. It has been incredible to have the opportunity to work with these eagles and help them get back on their feet.

Image courtesy of Don Burkett via Flickr Creative Commons.

One of our eagle patients is a particularly neat fellow, and was featured in a Facebook post by Ohio Division of Wildlife: 
"An injured bald eagle was recently reported in Knox County. What makes this incidence a little different was that the eagle was banded, and the initial observation noted the bands were well worn. Knowing the division hasn't banded eagles for a number of years, we were very curious about this bird. As it turns out, the eagle was banded in 1996 at the Ft. Seneca nest in Seneca County making it 19 years old! The bird had surgery to repair the injury and is currently doing well at the Ohio Wildlife Center."
Here is a picture of this eagle that Ohio  Division of Wildlife shared:

Image courtesy of Ohio Division of Wildlife.

In honor of our bald eagle patients, I will close with a few facts about this species!

*Just a few decades ago, the bald eagle was endangered as a result of excessive hunting and the unrestricted usage of DDT. This pesticide ran off into waterways and accumulated in fish-- a primary food source of bald eagles. As a result of consuming the contaminated fish, bald eagle egg shells were significantly weakened to the point where few eagles were surviving to adulthood. In 1972 DDT usage was restricted, and bald eagle populations have been recovering successfully. They are no longer considered endangered, and have been reclassified as threatened.

*Bald eagles do not acquire their signature white heads until they are between 3 and 5 years old. One of the bald eagles in the OWC hospital currently is just beginning to develop some white feathers on its head.

*Bald eagles construct very large nests out of sticks; according to National Geographic, the largest on record was 9.5ft in diameter and 20ft tall!

PS: Here is a link to a bald eagle nest cam. Shout-out to Friday morning volunteer Deb for sharing this with me!

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