Rehabilitated bald eagle released at Eagle Watch Nature Trail

Submitted photo
An immature bald eagle sits briefly atop a pavilion after it was released at the Eagle Watch Nature Trail on the afternoon of Sept. 24. The bird was rehabilitated over the past six months by veterinarians and caretakers at Northsong Wild Bird Rehabilitation in Fayetteville before its release last month.
Submitted photo An immature bald eagle sits briefly atop a pavilion after it was released at the Eagle Watch Nature Trail on the afternoon of Sept. 24. The bird was rehabilitated over the past six months by veterinarians and caretakers at Northsong Wild Bird Rehabilitation in Fayetteville before its release last month.


GENTRY -- More than a hundred spectators at Eagle Watch Nature Trail in Gentry watched last month as a rehabilitated bald eagle soared back into the wild.

SWEPCO and Northsong Bird Rehabilitation partnered in the at the trail, a nature preserve open to the public at SWEPCO Lake in Gentry. Northsong Bird Rehabilitation is a nonprofit dedicated to the care and recovery of injured avian species.

The story of the eagle's journey to release began in late May when Northsong was contacted after a distressed bald eagle was discovered in Boone County. The eagle was found near death, suffering from an injured wing and severe emaciation. Dr. Emily Warman, a veterinarian on Northsong's medical team, described the eagle's condition as dire, with a body condition score of only 1.5 out of 5.

"The prognosis didn't look good. I was actually very concerned that she would not make it to this point to be released again," Warman said. She told the crowd the bald eagle was only about eight pounds when she was found.

"The majority of the time, if we get an emaciated raptor in, there is an underlying cause such as an injury preventing flight, a parasitic infection or a sickness. We often go on a 'scavenger hunt' to determine what could be the cause, utilizing diagnostics and tailored treatment plans," she explained.

The bird weighed 11 pounds the day of the release. It's difficult to tell the sex of bald eagles, but since this bird is on the larger side, Northsong's medical staff believe it's a female.

"She is now flying and landing, which means she should be able to hunt appropriately, and her body condition has gone back to normal, so all around, the bird is doing great," Warman said.

Warman expressed confidence in the bird's readiness to return to the wild. She said the eagle "has regained appropriate muscle mass and weight, is flying splendidly, and I am sure is eager to return to the wilderness."

The event's significance was emphasized by SWEPCO Environmental and Lab Supervisor Ivaunna Neigler, who said it was an honor to host the release at Eagle Watch Nature Trail.

"It is a great spot because this is a place where all of those types of birds would love to stay," Neigler said. "It's important to SWEPCO to keep a place for wild animals, birds included. We always want to be environmentally friendly. That was a major part as to why we created Eagle Watch Nature Trail to surround SWEPCO Lake and serve as a wildlife reserve."

The Sept. 25 release was the third time SWEPCO and Northsong have partnered to release a rehabilitated bird back into the wild. An owl and a red-tailed hawk were also rehabilitated and released over the last two years.


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