52-day old bald eagle examined, banded in Saginaw County - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

52-day old bald eagle examined, banded in Saginaw County

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(05/09/13) - Dozens of bald eagles call the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge home. When a young eagle was spotted recently in a nest there, she was scheduled for a medical check-up.

It's not easy to give an eaglet a physical. For starters, the "waiting room" is a nest about 70 feet above ground. Even though U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Jeremy Moore is a certified tree climber, it took him nearly an hour to reach the young patient.

"They're not thrashing around. They're fairly calm. I try to keep my movements to a minimum," Moore said.

He gently placed the eaglet in a cloth bag and lowered it to the ground where two other biologists began the physical exam. All the time, two parents perched in a nearby tree, keeping an eye on their offspring.

"They're not defensive birds. They don't attack. So it's hard to gauge how upset they are. This pair was particularly calm," said Dave Best, a retired biologist who volunteered for Thursday's research project.

The eaglet weighed about 9 pounds. Blood was drawn to be sent to the University of Maryland, which keeps track of much of the nation's eagle population. Blood tests can show the level of DDT and other pollutants. Breast feathers are used to detect the toxin mercury.

"This bird is about 52 days old and definitely is a female from the footpad measurement. It's a big female and looks to be in good shape," Best said.

Both Moore and Best say that while it's interesting to be working in the name of science, it's a whole lot of fun to hold a baby eagle.

"I got a glimpse of what it calls it's home, so that's definitely a privilege to be a part of that," Moore said.

"It's fun to be out, see the eagles. They're around a lot and you're seeing more and more eagles throughout Michigan and particularly southern Michigan," Best said.

The eaglet was banded before it was returned to the nest.

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