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Rehabilitated Juneau bald eagles to fly the coop

Posted: Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Juneau Raptor Center will release one adult and two juvenile eagles at the Haines Bald Eagle Festival. The center cares for about 240 to 250 birds a year, 50 to 55 of which are eagles, said employee Jaime Sorg.

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The two juvenile eagles were retrieved after they "fledged," or first left the nest. Unfortunately, sometimes eagle parents choose a dangerous area to nest.

"Very frequently, the parents have nested in an area that isn't the best place in the world for the babies to be down on the ground, learning to fly," Sorg said. "They're right in a track of homes or apartments, with lots of cars, dogs and cats, and it's just not a safe place. We've had it happen downtown near the (Mount Roberts Tramway), all the way to where it starts to get less crowded in Auke Bay."

In the case of these two juveniles, two homeowners spotted the birds and noticed they were hesitant to leave the ground. Eagles often fledge in August and September, depending on where they hatch, Sorg said.

"If (an eagle is fledging) real close to the road, or in some situation that's not really that safe, page us immediately," Sorg said. "If there's no imminent danger, don't be surprised to see the birds coming out into the open when the parents bring it food and going back into the brush where it can hide and perch and be safe. The best option is to leave the birds out there, so mom and dad can finish the job."

Here's a look at the three eagles traveling to Haines from Juneau:

• "WAYNE" -An adult male, Wayne arrived at the Juneau Raptor Center in July from Kake, where he had been shot in the left wing. Wayne underwent surgery for a broken bone, then veterinarians put a pin in his wing to hold the it together until it healed.

"He's been in the flight mew (a safe flight enclosure), building up strength and ability again, and he's done wonderfully," Sorg said. "It's time for him to go now."

Wayne was named for a Juneau Raptor Center volunteer who met the eagle at Juneau International Airport after his seaplane journey from Kake.

• "CRYBABY" - This male baby eagle jumped out of its nest, in a housing area near Western Auto Marine. "They don't fly when they first jump out of the nest and usually Mom takes care of them, but this guy unfortunately fledged in an area that wasn't safe to leave him where he was," Sorg said.

The Juneau Raptor Center picked him up and cared for him until he was ready for the wild.

"The juveniles, the first-year birds, are very soliciting to the adult," Sorg said. "This guy spent the past two months soliciting the other adults, crying and begging them for good. We called him Crybaby."

• "MEADOW" - Like Crybaby, Meadow fledged in an unsafe area, near Industrial Boulevard in the Mendenhall Valley. She was so skinny the Raptor Center had to feed her before transferring her to the flight mew to hang out with other eagles.

"One of the things they have to learn is how to fly," Sorg said. "You see them practicing and standing on the edge of the nest, flapping and getting stronger, but that first flight they usually end up in another tree or down on the ground. From there, Mom and Dad will feed them and encourage them to fly up to other places.

"In the mew, they watch the adults and watch what's going on," she said. "You'll see them trying out their wings for the first time and going up from perch to perch until they're finally up in the high perches and maneuvering with some athletic ability."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com



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