Biologists and Volunteers come to the Rescue of Three “Downed” Eagle Chicks
By: Larissa Smith, Wildlife Biologist/Volunteer Manager
On Saturday the 23rd, I received a call from Eagle Project volunteers Donna and Heiki Poolake. One of the nests that they monitor in Natural Lands Trust’s Glades Wildlife Refuge in Cumberland County had partially fallen and Heiki found all three chicks on the ground, thankfully alive. ENSP Principal Biologist Kathy Clark met them out at the nest site and determined that all three looked uninjured but were weak from lack of food and water. The two smallest were especially docile so the decision was made to take them to Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research in Delaware for a check up and to get needed fluids and food. The largest and strongest bird was given water and fish, and set on a leaning tree (off the ground) in the hope that it would hop up on branches where the adults, still watching from above, would continue to feed it.
The next day we pulled together a crew to install a nest platform for the remaining eaglet. We carried the pre-built nest platform (designed for ospreys) into the marsh, installed it and built a nest of branches and grass, and added perches to make it more roomy for an eagle. We found the eaglet back on the ground, sitting on the remains of the fallen nest. We caught the bird again, banded and took measurements that confirmed this was a female about 9 weeks of age. She gladly ate pieces of fish offered to her as well as some more water. We placed her up in her new “nest,” along with several fish, and she looked quite happy to be off the ground and back up in a nest.
Chick in fallen nest on ground @ Heiki Poolake
Re-nested eagle nestling in platform nest Photo by: K. Clark
In the meantime, the two eaglets at Tri-State were deemed healthy and ready to return to their parents. The challenge was how to return these two without disturbing their sibling now living in a nest platform built for smaller ospreys. The solution: a second nest platform. This second one was improved by CWF’s Ben Wurst by enlarging the size and adding branches as railings for perching. For a second time, a work crew assembled to use the early morning tide, and we boated the new platform out to within 200 yards of the first. The platform went up, a stick-and-grass nest quickly built, and the eaglets were brought out.
The eaglets, a 9 week old male and a 7.5 week old female, were kept covered until they got settled. When the chicks were uncovered, one of the adults started calling and flew in and perched on a snag within viewing distance. We quickly left and monitored them from a distance. One adult was perched near the platform with one eaglet, and before we left had flown in and perched near the new platform. Kathy went out the next day and reported that all three chicks were fine and using the perches and branches.
Re-nested eaglets in second platform Photo by: K. Clark
Eagle nestlings in new nest Photo by: K. Clark
We’d like to thank the following people for their help: Dr. Erica Miller (NJDFW); Todd Vasquez (NJDFW Law Enforcement); Eagle Project volunteers Donna & Heiki Poolake and Matt Tribulski; Steve Eisenhauer (Natural Lands Trust) and local landowners, the Watermans.
Larissa Smith is the Wildlife Biologist/Volunteer Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.