Monday marks the return to the wild of the second of the two bald eagle chicks injured during an attack by a sub-adult bald eagle at Pelican Harbor on Santa Cruz Island on May 19.
The attack was observed live by hundreds of enthusiasts via the Channel Islands 24-hour EagleCAM. The Web cam captured the two eagle chicks as they were unexpectedly taken from their nest and dropped more than 30 feet to the ground.
The EagleCAM watchers notified biologists, prompting the chicks’ rescue. Thousands more followed the story as a video clip of the incident became a most-watched feature on YouTube. Click here to see the video.
The sub-adult intruder responsible for the attack has not been identified. One of the eagle chicks suffered a cracked beak in the assault, while the other had a broken wing. Both eaglets were taken to a veterinary facility in Orange County for treatment under the care of Dr. Scott Weldy.
In early June, the eaglet with the cracked bill, known as A64 by biologists and named Spirit by EagleCAM watchers, was released to a “hack tower” on Santa Cruz Island and monitored by Institute for Wildlife Studies biologists until it was ready to fledge. On July 1, two days after the hack tower door was lowered, the eagle took its first flight. His movements are tracked using a satellite transmitter.
On Monday, the eagle with the broken wing, known as A65 and called Skye by enthusiasts, will be returned to Santa Cruz Island.
Biologists hope it will fledge from the “hack tower” within two to four weeks. Dr. Peter Sharpe with IWS explained how pins and wire were uses to heal A65’s broken wing. “Now that the pins have been removed, this eagle is ready to return to the wild,” Sharpe said. “We watch the bird’s wing movements to determine when it is ready to fly.”
The students were devastated by the attack on the two eagle chicks, having observed and studied their behavior and recorded daily observations on the EagleCAM discussion board since the chicks hatched in early April. The children have been following the birds’ recovery and even sent get well cards to the veterinary facility.
Today, nearly 40 bald eagles are in Channel Islands National Park as a result of the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program that released 61 eagles from 2002 to 2006. This spring, there were four nests established on the northern Channel Islands, three on Santa Cruz Island and one on Santa Rosa Island. Only two of the nests produced chicks, including this nest at Pelican Harbor. On Catalina Island, five nests have produced seven young eaglets this spring.
Yvonne Menard represents the National Park Service.