Metro-East Living

Injured bald eagle, now recovered, to be released into the wild. Her mate is waiting.

Female bald eagle returns to her mate after rehabilitation process

An injured female bald eagle was treated at Treehouse Wildlife Center and released in Litchfield, where her mate was minding the nest. See video of her return to the wild.
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An injured female bald eagle was treated at Treehouse Wildlife Center and released in Litchfield, where her mate was minding the nest. See video of her return to the wild.

The Treehouse Wildlife Rescue Center is inviting the public to a bald eagle release at 11 a.m. Saturday in Litchfield. The non-profit center in Dow rehabilitates sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.

The female eagle that will be released was admitted to the rescue center last April along with a male bald eagle. The center believes the two birds were in a territorial fight. The male died shortly after admission from its injuries.

The center has not given the female eagle a name. If the organization isn’t going to keep the animal, they don’t name it.

According to Rachael Heaton of The Treehouse Wildlife Center, territorial fighting among bald eagles is fairly common. “Bald eagles are territorial, especially when they’re nesting. They compete over resources and they don’t want other eagles where they’re nesting,” Heaton said.

Fights among eagles begin in the air and usually end on the ground. The female eagle had multiple lacerations on its face from the male eagle’s talons. Sometimes, they have broken bones, but Heaton did not believe that was the case with this eagle.

The treatment for cuts on birds is basic wound care. “Kind of like if we (humans) had lots of scratches on us. We use antibiotics and ointments and keep the wounds clean,” Heaton said. “We offer the animal a safe place to rest and recover with plenty of food and water available.”

Heaton said, “Once they recover in the bird hospital, we have an additional outdoor enclosure known as the flight cage. The flight cage is about 100 feet and if they can fly the whole space with no effort, we know they’re ready to be released.”

The flight cage helps injured animals build any atrophied muscles back and allows caretakers at the center to see if the animal has any other issues.

“In the flight cage, there’s other things you can observe that you can’t see when the animal is in the cage — like how well they can see. If they miss a perch over and over then we can see it,” Heaton said.

The female bald eagle will be released back into the wild on Jan. 20. Provided

This bald eagle has been at the center since last April and that’s longer than the caretakers prefer to hold an animal. But the center’s flight cage was badly damaged in a storm and was unsuitable for animals to use until major repairs were completed.

The flight cage is absolutely necessary to ensure complete recovery, according to Heaton. “If you don’t flight test them like that, then you have no idea if they can fly or not when you let them go. If you don’t do that and just release it, they could land on the ground in front of you.”

The eagle’s mate appears to be waiting near the nesting grounds for its partner to come back. Heaton says eagles mate for life.

“The public has been watching what they believe is her mate, possibly waiting for her,” Heaton said. “Eagles can move on. They can choose another one, I have heard of that happening, especially if another eagle comes along. Generally though, if the other is still around, then they’ll stay with that one.”

Last year, 890 animals were admitted to the Treehouse Wildlife Rescue Center. Six of those animals were eagles.

Heidi Wiechert: 618-239-2500, @BND_HeidiW

Want go to?

  • What: Bald eagle release by Treehouse Wildlife Rescue Center
  • When: 11 a.m. Saturday
  • Where: Lake Lou Yaeger, Marina 1, 4313 Beach House Trail, Litchfield