The grounded bald eagle found in Washington D.C.’s southeast neighborhood over the weekend has been dried off, given a guardedly good prognosis and sent to Delaware for rehab.
“It’s probably one of the adults out of the nest near the Police Academy,” said Wildlife Biologist Dan Rauch with the Department of Energy and Environment.
Rauch is referring to the home of Liberty and Justice and their fledgling, in an oak tree 110 feet above the Metropolitan Police Academy. It’s one of just two known eagle nests in the city. The other is at the National Arboretum.
The novelty of finding the birds nestled in the center of the city is underscored by the “eagle cams” fixed on both nests, allowing fans to tune in any time to get their feathered fix.
The grounded eagle was found in a bush off the sidewalk looking somewhat bedraggled following a heavy storm late Saturday afternoon, not far from the Police Academy. Animal rescue workers said when they got to it, it “demonstrated labored breathing, lethargy and was unable to fly.”
Said Rauch: “These guys only weigh 15 to 18 pounds. You add water to that and it doesn’t take much to ground them.”
The eagle was taken to City Wildlife, a rescue center, around 6 p.m. Saturday, where it underwent an examination, including blood tests.
“It was very stressed when it arrived but it stabilized very quickly and spent a quiet night at City Wildlife.” said Executive Director Paula Goldberg, adding that the bird was able to eat. “It is bright and alert and in good condition.”
But Goldberg said further testing is needed to better determine its prognosis.
What also remains unknown is whether the bird is Liberty — the female — or Justice — the male.
“With it wet, they couldn’t get a weight on it,” Rauch said. “So there is no word on the sex.” That part of the exam was kept short, since workers were dealing “with an angry bald eagle. You could risk your extremities,” Rauch added.
Encountering bald eagles, even in urban centers, is becoming less rare, especially since they were removed from the endangered species list in 2007.
“In 1963, there were only 487 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states,” said Rauch. “Now it is up to about 16 or 17 thousand.”
Contributing to their bounce back: better water quality, the banning of the pesticide DDT, and stricter rules around protecting eagles’ territory.
“They are becoming more urban birds and learning how to adapt” says Rauch. “I can see them soaring overhead Nats Park,” he said of the home stadium of the Washington Nationals.
The hope is that soon Liberty or Justice will once again be soaring over their Capital home.
By Monday the eagle was headed to a rehabilitation center in Delaware, where it can receive continued care, if needed, and where there is room to observe how it flies.
“Our hope is that the bird will be given a clean bill of health so it can return to its home,” said Goldberg, adding that it could be released as soon as this week.
“We want to return it to its territory,” Rauch said. “This is a breeding bird…we want it to use its nest. We don’t want to disorient it.”