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Eagle Banding

By Pauline Hice, Director, Think Wild and McKenzie Joslin-Snyder, Wildlife Rehabilitator, Portland Audubon

Banding of rescued or rehabbed birds provides the opportunity to gain survival and movement data on that subset of birds. The info is logged with the Bird Banding Lab and is available to any researcher who wants to look at survival of rehabbed vs "normal" wild birds. This is dependent on banded birds being encountered alive or recovered dead and the band number or color marker being reported to the banding lab. Anyone who spots a bird with a federal band can participate in the scientific process by reporting it to One of the benefits of working within a rehabilitation setting is that since the bird is already in-hand there is little additional stress involved in placing a band during the course of treatment. Eagles are good candidates for banding because they are big enough that their leg bands are easily seen. Under ideal conditions, the band numbers may be read through a spotting scope on a perched bird so you don’t have to wait until the bird becomes injured or dies to receive reports of the animal in question. Continue reading to find out about a few of the eagles released with bands from rehabilitation clinics in Oregon within the last year.

GOEA 21-147

An adult male Golden eagle was admitted to Think Wild on May 14th, 2021. The eagle had sustained a left ulna fracture and a soft tissue injury to the left shoulder. After a countless number of physical therapy sessions, laser therapy, a CT scan, and months of flight training the eagle was finally released back into the wild on 12/6/2021. The eagle had a federal band attached, radio-tagged, and will be tracked for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation research program that aims to analyze the success and survival rate of Golden eagles post-rehabilitation and release. He is the 14th eagle to be tracked as part of the program, and the 4th from the Pacific Northwest.

BAEA 21-3616 & 21-3828

Two juvenile Bald Eagles were admitted to the Portland Audubon Wildlife Care Center shortly after the July 2021 heatwave that adversely affected most of the wildlife in Oregon. Although the two were not siblings, they were close enough in age to be co-housed throughout much of their stay at the center. The first had signs of trauma to the left side of its body, including a wrist swelling, and a fractured talon. The second bird was recovered a few weeks later, and was very thin, dehydrated, and anemic. After their problems had been successfully treated, the two Eagles were housed together in a large flight cage. There, presented with a variety of forage options and plenty of room to fly, they took the time necessary to grow and ready themselves for life in the wild. Rehabilitators at Portland Audubon released the two banded Bald Eagles during the fall of 2021. Working with with federally licensed Master Bander Carolle Hallet, Portland Audubon has released several banded Bald Eagles over the years which have later been reported in the wild. These sightings have ranged from a matter of weeks to 7 years after release.

GOEA 21-681:

Think Wild received an adult female Golden eagle on November 18, 2021 after a passerby found her slumped under a tree, unable to stand or fly with blood in and around the nostrils. The eagle had a federal band and was at least 10 years old, according to banding data. Upon intake, the eagle tested positive for lead(Pb) toxicity at 49.5 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dL), nearly five times what is considered subclinical in wild raptors (10 ug/dL). After one round of chelation therapy, the eagle’s blood Pb levels dropped below subclinical. To ensure Pb was still not leaching into the eagle’s body, Think Wild tested again 2 weeks later. Luckily the blood Pb levels were still subclinical and had not risen, deeming the eagle as releasable. The eagle did not sustain any permanent deficits due to its acute toxicity. The female Golden eagle will be radio-tagged and tracked for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation research program that aims to analyze the success and survival rate of Golden Eagles post-rehabilitation and release. She will be the 15th eagle to be tracked as part of the program, and the 5th from the Pacific Northwest.

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