A now-healed bald eagle takes a few steps out of a carrying crate after being released at Ottawa Trail Woods in Lyons. (Supplied photos)

A now-healed bald eagle takes a few steps out of a carrying crate after being released at Ottawa Trail Woods in Lyons. (Supplied photos)

Poisoned eagle healed, released to mate

By Kelly White

Wildlife advocates recently released a bald eagle back into the wild at Ottawa Trail Woods at 47th Street and Harlem Avenue in Lyons.

The release marked the end of a six-week rehabilitation stint that started on New Year’s Day when the bird was found on the ground in the woods.

It was rescued by members of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, who noticed the eagle acting erratically, as if it was injured or ill.

“This is why we do this,” Chicago Bird Collision Monitors Director Annette Prince said. “It’s all about getting them safe, healthy and getting them back out there again. It’s all about the release, and this is truly a happy ending.”

Once captured, the eagle was placed under the care of the Glen Ellyn-based Willowbrook Wildlife, where veterinarians determined during a blood test that the eagle was not injured, but poisoned by anti-coagulants normally used to kill rats. The poison prevents blood from clotting and causes uncontrolled internal bleeding. Raptors who eat mice and rats (as well as rabbits and squirrels) are then themselves poisoned, and the food chain continues.

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The eagle was later spotted several blocks away, reunited with its mate and nest.

Dr. Sarah Reich, lead veterinarian at Willowbrook, said the eagle has made strides towards improving every day.

Reich believes the eagle to be male, based on its size and markings, even though rescue volunteers believe it to be a female, also based on its size and maturity. Male eagles typically weigh up to 10 pounds, and this one is at the max end of that spectrum; whereas, females weigh between 12-14 pounds, Reich said, so, it is difficult to tell for certain.

Lorna Lightle, of the Villa Park-based Chicago Bird Collision Monitors volunteers of La Grange Park, who was on site and assisted during the day of the rescue, was responsible for naming the majestic bird.

“I named the eagle Betty, after Betty White, who passed away on New Year’s Eve,” Lightle said. “A bald eagle, just like Betty White, is an American icon. I could not think of a name more fitting.”

The eagle is believed to be part of a mating pair, so it was released where it was found, in the hope it would return to its mate.

“The eagle flew to a tree above the field where it was released,” Deb Humiston, Communications Lead for the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, said.

The eagle later flew a few blocks east, where it found its mate and nest in a tall tree in a relatively quiet area. Rescuers declined to say exactly where, because they want the nest to remain undisturbed by people.

Prince, who was able to obtain a photo of the pair of eagles, said she was thrilled with the outcome.

“It was exciting to have begun the new year with the rescue of such a magnificent bird,” Prince said. “We are thrilled that it could be rehabilitated and released to rejoin its mate. It is important to our work to both give injured birds a second chance to return to the wild and to be able to raise awareness to the dangerous consequences that rodent poisons can have on our native wildlife.”

“Release is the ultimate goal of wildlife rehabilitation,” Reich added. “Unfortunately, that goal is not achievable in some animals, especially in cases of rodenticide toxicosis, so it makes the success stories that much more precious. This case was especially rewarding because this eagle was able to quickly reunite with his or her mate, despite spending almost 40 days away in care. The fact that that bond remained unbroken despite weeks apart, and that this individual was returned hopefully just in time for breeding season, means that a successful nesting season may be in the future.”

Those interested in learning more about Chicago Bird Collision Monitors may visit birdmonitors.net. Those interested in learning more about wildlife rehabilitation are encouraged to visit dupageforest.org/willowbrook-wildlife-center.

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