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UNIQUE REHABILITATED BALD EAGLE TO BE RELEASED TO THE WILD!

On March 13th of this year, Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill was notified by Lloyd Brown, founder of Wildlife Rescue of Dade County (WRDC) of which Ron is a Board member, that he had just been contacted by Audubon Eagle Watch volunteer, Jeanne Kaufmann.  She told him that a bald eagle’s nest in South Miami had been severely compromised by a storm and that the two chicks in the nest had fallen 85 feet to the ground.  Sadly, one of the chicks died but the other was still alive, lying at the base of the nest tree, but appeared to be injured.

Lloyd and Ron, along with WRDC team member Jemma Peterson, drove to the location where they met with Jeanne who guided them to the chick at the base of the nest tree.  With one of the parents still circling above, Lloyd carefully examined the chick and noticed that it was severely dehydrated and appeared to have an injury to one of its wings.

After discussions over the phone with U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials, it was concluded that as a life-saving measure, the bird needed to have immediate medical attention and permission was given to transport it to the WRDC facility for treatment and hopeful rehabilitation.

Working closely with avian veterinary specialist, Dr. Don Harris and VCA South Dade Animal Hospital, who donated their services, the eaglet, determined to be a female, was closely examined and X-rays revealed that it indeed had a broken right wing.  Thanks to a successful surgery by Dr. Harris, in addition to a variety of other treatments over several months, she has been able to regain full use of her injured wing.

Lloyd and his team have dedicated many hours over the last several months to rehabilitate this eaglet, providing regular flying exercises to build up her strength, as well as teaching her how to fish while providing other food options that she may encounter in the wild.  To our surprise, in addition to fish, one of her favorite foods is iguana!  This is a unique adaptation to the South Florida environment with a potentially beneficial impact on efforts to control an invasive species.  Should this individual be successfully released into the wild and eventually raise chicks of her own, the hope would be that she would teach her chicks to also hunt iguanas, thereby creating a generation of bald eagles that would help provide a natural control over the population of these invasive lizards!  

After over 5 months of dedicated care and rehabilitation of which all out of pocket costs were covered by the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment at the Zoo Miami Foundation, it has been determined that this magnificent raptor is ready for release!

The release is set for this Saturday, August 21st, at 11:00AM.  It will take place on the border to the main entrance of Everglades National Park (SW 237th Avenue and Ingraham Hwy, adjacent to the canal that borders the front entrance of the park).  This event is not open to the public but special access is being given to the media in what we all hope will be a wonderful “feel good” story.  Interested media is asked to arrive no later than 10:45AM so that they can be in position to capture the moment that we open the crate door and she flies free for the first time in her life!

As a side note, Lloyd and his team, along with Ron Magill, have been working over the last several days to install a more secure platform in the nest tree where the original nest was destroyed by a storm.  Financed by the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment, they have also installed high-resolution web cameras around the nest platform.  Since eagle pairs usually return year after year to the same nest site, the hope is that the parents of this rehabilitated eagle will return this year to rebuild their nest on the much more secure platform with the eventual goal of successfully laying eggs and raising chicks.  If that indeed occurs, the web cameras will be able to live stream the entire process so that anyone in the world can watch what is sure to be a truly wonderful natural series of events!

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