After a month of recovery at the Wild At Heart Wildlife Refuge Centre, a juvenile bald eagle — nicknamed Wick — is back on the Warren farm where it was found, and seems on the cusp of learning to fly.
OPP Const. Carmel McDonald said she noticed the eagle nest on a huge white pine on her property back in the spring, and she'd seen eagles flying by once in awhile.
But she said her family didn't pay much attention to the birds until July 2, when they found an eaglet on the ground.
“And it didn't look well,” McDonald said, guessing that the bird fell from the nest during a storm, or was possibly pushed out by its sibling — bald eagle babies are quite aggressive.
Acting on the advice of the wildlife sanctuary, they left the eaglet, who couldn't yet fly, on the ground with food and water nearby until July 4 to see if the mother was still taking care of it.
“We watched and watched, and the mommy didn't come,” said McDonald, who nicknamed the eaglet Wick because its yellow legs reminded her of a waxy candle.
“So we called the wildlife sanctuary back because we were afraid something would eat it.”
Little Wick ended up getting a ride in McDonald's police cruiser to the Lively-based wildlife sanctuary.
Veterinarian Dr. Rod Jouppi, president of Wild at Heart, said Wick, one of about 15 bald eagles his centre has rehabilitated over the years, “had a pretty serious back injury.”
“We started with some pain relief and just babying him along, because he couldn't stand at the beginning and he couldn't use his wings,” Jouppi said.
“He had some spinal damage. When that happens you never know how it's going to end up. After about a week, he started getting up on his legs and using his wings, and then about two weeks after that he really made a great recovery.”
By the way, although Jouppi uses male pronouns for the bird, we don't actually know if Wick is a male or female, as it's difficult to tell in eaglets of that age.
There were plans to transfer Wick from Wild at Heart to another wildlife centre in Southern Ontario where there's a proper flight cage where the eaglet could learn to fly.
But when wildlife refuge staff learned that Wick's sibling was learning to fly on McDonald's property, they thought it best that the eaglet returned the farm and possibly reunite with its family.
McDonald said she got Wick back Tuesday, and put the eaglet in a dog enclosure with the top off. While Wick isn't soaring like the proverbial eagle yet, the bird is showing signs that might just happen soon.
“It went from perching on the dog house to perching on the dog kennel, and now it's perching on the barn,” she said.
“It's developing its wings and that. While it's on the top of the barn, it goes back and forth on the ridge of the roof line and it puts its wings out.
“That's exactly what the sibling was doing on the branches of the trees, and the next thing you know, it was flying.”
McDonald said her family plans to provide supplementary food to Wick as long as the eaglet needs it. Wick may still have to go to a wildlife sanctuary in Southern Ontario if the eaglet doesn't manage well on its own.
She said the whole experience has been “unbelievable.”
“Who gets to see an eaglet that close, then hold it in your arms — and it weighs less than a chicken — then transport it?,” McDonald said. “It didn't make a peep. It just was calm.”