White-tailed Eagle rehabilitation

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SASIn autumn 2008, Milvus Group was contacted and informed by Eugen Petrescu (SOR Tulcea), then by the Environmental Guard Bacău about the captive White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) which was kept at the Onești ZOO, belong to the local town hall. The circumstances regarding this bird’s origin have been not clear, we knew only poor information that two years ago this specimen was brought here somewhere from Danube Delta area. The environmental authorities have proposed to ZOO the releasing of the bird. Eugen Petrescu was contacted to suggest them a location in the Danube Delta, where will be possible to release the bird.

After an agreement, we decided that it will be a mistake to release the bird without previous training, and we obtained approval from the environmental authorities to take the bird from Onești. We brought it to our rehabilitation center in Târgu Mureș, where we prepared a large cage for him. Unfortunately the eagle showed a strong imprint toward humans. We decided to try to wean the bird from this affection, so the human presence around the bird has been reduced to the minimum. Gradually, the hunting instincts were recall and skills acquired throughout the months of rehabilitation have made it much wilder than when the bird had arrived to our centre. It stayed in Târgu-Mureș in this period of rehabilitation from November until late May, when it was considered that the bird had regained flight and hunting skills. In the meantime, Eugen with the chief inspector of ARBDD Guard Corps (Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Administration) has decided the best location for releasing near the Maliuc Fishpond.
On the night of 26th May 2009, the Milvus Group team and the transporter bag with the eagle went to Tulcea and the next day we have traveled to the releasing place. Here, we removed the eagle from the transporter and we made some pictures about the bird and the painted feather markings, in order to be more easily identified in flight. We put him down on the ground and we gave him water and fresh fish. After about an hour we realized that most probably the releasing will not occur on that day and the releasing process will be longer and difficult than we appreciate. We have decided to arrange a kind of temporary cage around the bird, with the possibility of closing only for the night, to protect the bird against possible persecution of dogs or foxes. For this second plan our volunteer have assumed the task to guard and to supervise permanently the eagle from a checkpoint, all the day, till the bird will fly, or until we come to a new decision.
On the third day’s morning we received a call from our volunteer who reported us good news about the fact that the bird flew 50 meters. It was sitting down, and then raised again, crossing over a canal at a distance of about 300 meters, and has taken a seat on a willow tree. Even here the bird had not stay for a long; he flew about 500 meters and perched again on old willow in the neighboring grove. In the afternoon the bird took flight again, far from this location. Two more days long our volunteer has researched the whole area in the hope he would see it again. Afterwards, Eugen Petrescu investigated the surroundings by boat, but has not found the bird too. Two weeks after releasing, ranger Achimfiev Constantin from ARBDD, in a mission in Danube Delta, about 6 km far from the place where the bird was observed for the last time, have seen a sub-adult White-tailed Eagle (similar to our bird), which followed awhile his boat, but disappeared behind the trees as soon as the boat stopped, make impossible to know if the bird shoves or not any distinct painted markings.
We still hope that the rehabilitation was a success and the bird readjusts to its natural environment, success in which the major contribution of Mr. Eugen Petrescu was indispensable.
For more pictures and the detailed article (published in the magazine “About Birds”), accessible in Romanian language, please visit: http://www.sor.ro/download/Revista%202009_1.pdf

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