Birding New Mexico

Injured Golden Eagle flies free thanks to a bit of teamwork

Mario Garcia, Audubon New Mexico's Center Assistant at the Randall Davey Audubon Center writes about his experiences releasing a rehabilitated Golden Eagle

" The Santa Fe Raptor Center (SFRC),  is a nonprofit whose main goal is rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing injured birds, primarily but not exclusively birds of prey. The center is run by Lori Paras (executive director) and volunteers like myself. Volunteers help with tasks ranging from feeding the birds, cleaning habitats and handling educational birds for outreach programs. I have been volunteering for Lori since August and have so greatly enjoyed my work with her and the birds at the SFRC.

 I was very fortunate last week to aid in fitting a monitor on an adult male golden eagle. This bird came to the Center from Arizona’s lake Powell area in late November after being clipped by a car. After compassionate care and rehab this magnificent animal was ready for release. I feel so hopeful when a wild bird gets to go back to the sky. As a result, I was excited arriving at the Center last Thursday afternoon, even more so than my usual excitement to spend time with the raptors. Avian Biologist Robert Murphy was there to equip the eagle with a position monitoring transmitter. That way data of the eagle’s movement and range could be collected.

Before the gentle yet precise process of assembling and attaching the small harness to the bird, we had to catch him. Lori did a great Job rehabilitating the bird because he was hard to catch. When he landed on ground, using a large cotton net we secured him and his dangerously powerful talons. We hooded him with a leather cap, calming him. Lori and I then took turns holding the eagle while Bob delicately attached the 4” solar transmitter using durable but soft Teflon straps. Like a small backpack, if done right the bird would barely notice it. It took about 1.5 hours to fit and tighten the transmitter to ensure it was functional and not cumbersome for the bird. Once the harness was fitted, we weighed the eagle, measured its wingspan and drew a very small amount of blood to test sex. At this point it was late in the evening, we put the bird back into his temporary enclosure. When I placed him on the ground he ruffled his feathers, took a couple of awkward hops then flew up effortlessly to roost for the night. The Next day Lori drove 6 hours to the Navajo Nation and Released the eagle back into the wild. I want to thank Lori Paras and Bob Murphy for allowing me the opportunity to help with this amazing process. It has solidified my desire and dedication in helping these incredible animals as well as educating on their importance.  More photos and information regarding the eagle and the Raptor Center can be found at their site as well as their Facebook and Instagram pages. Please visit these sites and donate to this great effort if you can." 

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