Two weeks ago the Southeastern Raptor Center took in an injured Golden Eagle who came in from Northern Alabama. While we are keeping its medical record disclosed, this species of eagle has been a rarity in the Southeast region of the United States, with the latest appearance dating back to 2007.
The amount of each species we get at the center can often speaks about their local population. Golden Eagles have been especially scarce, a trend not limited to the Southeast, but all over the United States. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the use of wind farms in California because the eagles, who inhabit the northern-most part of the state, fly into the turbines while chasing prey; this was an issue that killed over 70 last month alone.
Golden Eagles the largest species in the United States, with a massive wingspan that can reach up to 7.5ft. They are, in essence, a prime example of a thriving eco-system(s) both here and abroad. Most birds of prey act as an indicator species, a type of animal or organism that indicates a healthy environment.
While we have seen an increase in Bald Eagle populations (including receiving calls of people complaining about them chasing their small animals), I never expected to see a wild Golden Eagle during my time here. We often receive calls about potential Golden Eagles, only to discover that the birds are actually immature Bald Eagles (who don’t receive their white crest until they turn around 5) or large hawks. Sometimes we even get calls with people asking if an owl is an eagle.
The internet, people. Google is great.
Now perhaps this specific bird was just wintering in the south before heading back up to areas like Quebec, where they commonly nest, but the fact that there have been more sightings is cause for excitement.
As of February 16th, this particular Golden Eagle was successfully rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Perhaps in the future, we will see more of them flying around and less of them brought to us at the center.