The first golden eagle to be treated at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is quickly gaining in strength and appetite.
Last week, crew members on a lobster boat pulled the young eagle from water about a three-hour ride off of Cape Sable Island.
“He’s eating by himself now, and he’s a lot stronger,” said Dr. Helene Van Doninck, the veterinarian who runs the wildlife centre. “We hope to X-ray him soon. We were giving him some time to gain strength first, because he has to go under anesthetic for that.”
She noted that, luckily, there was someone who had worked with golden eagles not far away and was able to be at the centre to help out.
The bird’s blood tests looked good, and if the X-ray is clear he will be observed and given a chance to fly to ensure there are no problems.
There are currently bald eagles in the flyway, and adding the golden eagle to the mix wouldn’t work well. The bald eagles will be temporarily moved, giving the newcomer a couple of days in the large building, or the golden will have leather straps attached to him so he can exercise.
“He’s not even a year old,” said Van Doninck. “We think he’s a male because he’s on the smaller end of the weight range, although he’s a big bird.
“He’s bigger and stronger than a bald eagle, but doesn’t seem a lot different otherwise.”
She said the eagle was probably migrating or got caught up in the weather when he ended up in the water. Although he could have been trying to catch something, fish don’t make up a major part of a golden eagle’s diet. They usually hunt mammals.
The birds are usually seen in other parts of Canada, but rarely along the east coast, although one has been quite regularly spotted around the Tantramar Marsh.
“They’re even seen toward the Arctic,” said Van Doninck. “They have feathers all the way down to their feet, which is an adaptation in birds that can handle cold weather.
“This bird has a long, beautiful tail, and they’re fairly high strung. Shipping him somewhere for release could result in broken feathers, so we’ll probably let him go along the coastline in Nova Scotia.”