Clinton resident Melissa Koch got a close look at America’s most patriotic bird after discovering a young bald eagle pecking at her hydrangeas Aug. 7. The juvenile eagle appeared to have fallen from a tall nearby fir tree where a pair of nesting bald eagles hatched baby eagles earlier this year, she said.
David Parent of Useless Bay Animal Clinic stopped by and attempted to reunite the eaglet with its parents by leaving it on top of a roof underneath the nest of the tree.
Parent advised that someone who comes upon seemingly abandoned or injured wild animals not to take matters into their own hands, but to get help.
Wildlife centers are equipped to treat birds and make efforts to return them to the wild. Parent, who is licensed to treat wildlife, said he gets called to check on eagles about 15 to 20 times a year.
Eaglets tend to fall from nests between May and August, according to Laura Follis of the Lynnwood PAWS Wildlife Center, where Koch transported the eagle after its parents did not return.
In this case, Parent suspected that the eagle’s healthier sibling learned to fly, and the parents moved on.
“Mother nature is not often kind,” he said.
For her part, Koch said it was a magical experience to get to see the majestic feathered creature on such a personal level. She said she had been watching the eagle family from afar, witnessing feeding times and the eaglets “flapping wings getting ready for the maiden voyage into the skies.”
Unfortunately, not every story has a happy ending, and this eaglet will not be returning to the wild.
Follis said PAWS had to euthanize the bird a day after it was received due to two improperly-healed fractures and a severe aspergillosis infection in its lungs, likely due to a compromised immune system. Infections progressed to that level “are almost impossible to treat,” she wrote in an email.
The injuries would have impeded its ability to fly or function normally.
“With rare exception, wild animals need full function in every limb to survive in the wild,” she said.
Eaglets learning how to fly can be injured falling out of trees because eagle nests are typically built at the top of the tallest tree in the area, which can be upwards to 60-80 feet high, she said.
“Recently we have seen fractured pelvis in fallen eaglets the most,” Follis said.
Call a licensed rehab canter or a veterinarian with a wildlife rehabilitation permit upon finding an injured eagle, she said.
Licensed centers can be found on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website. Whidbey’s centers are Useless Bay Animal Clinic in Freeland and Wildlife Care Clinic in Oak Harbor.
Bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list in 1995 and are currently listed as a federal “species of concern.”