Today we released a juvenile bald eagle that had been in our care since July 2014. He arrived at the CWRC as an emaciated nestling. He was extremely thin, unable to fly and missing all his tail feathers.
He was provided fluids and medication to stabilize and prepare him for a long rehabilitation. Initially he was housed in our critical care enclosure and monitored closely. As his condition improved and was seen to be eating regularly he was moved to an intermediate sized enclosure where he had more freedom of movement. Here he could hop up to an elevated perch, stretch out his wings and acclimatize to the outdoor environment.
Once we knew that he was comfortable outside, able to hop up to low perches and eating well it was time to move him to the flyway in the large raptor building, a.k.a “The Big Jeezley”. Here he would have unlimited mobility to strengthen his flight muscles and learn to fly. His initial flights were low and uncoordinated, as one might expect with a young bird. He was also dealing with new feathers growing in which added a level of difficulty.
Over time, though, he became stronger and more coordinated. His low flights and hops over the ground became low circuits around the flyway with confident landings on the low perches.
One morning when we went to feed the birds in “The Big Jeezley” we were delighted to find him on one of the high perches squawking at us as if to say “hey look at me!” After he was able to manage the high perches his ability to fly circuits in the flyway improved daily. He was soon ready to be released with the only thing holding him back was his feathers. He was molting his feathers which requires a high and stable amount of nutrition. We always want to release out patients in peak condition to give them the best possible head start upon release.
This July, a full year after he was admitted to the CWRC he was ready to go. We caught him in the flyway and transported him to a release area and when we opened the door to the cage he shot out like an arrow, flew perfectly with out hesitation or looking back. A perfect release!