The raptors were treated at rehabilitation facilities for injuries related to lead poisoning and territory fights

Three adult male bald eagles were released at the on Feb. 14. The birds were treated for injuries and rehabilitated at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey.

One of the bald eagles was found in Ruskin and initially received treatment at the Raptor Center of Tampa Bay. Later, it was transferred to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey for rehabilitation. The bird suffered from lead poisoning and injuries sustained from a fall. It was able to fully recover after three weeks of care.

Rehabilitated bald eagle wearing hood
The rehabilitated bald eagles wore hoods during transport to the Balm Boyette Scrub Nature Preserve.

Many eagles in Florida test positive for lead, often due to consuming shotgun pellets and fishing sinkers made of the toxic metal. Being opportunistic feeders, the raptors regularly ingest lead when feeding on the carcasses of shot animals or fish that consumed toxic sinkers. The effect on the birds can be fatal, frequently causing their immune systems to suffer. As a result, the animals can become weak, lose the ability to fly, and in some cases suffer from paralysis, among other life-threatening impairments. The birds can even become blind and have seizures, often impeding their flight and causing them to plummet from the sky.

It's suspected that the eagle found in Ruskin most likely crash-landed due to the effects of the lead it had ingested. The other two birds, found in Sarasota, were both injured from fighting one another. The clash was likely a territorial dispute, a common occurrence when eagles compete for prime nesting territory.

The two Sarasota eagles were treated for injuries by the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey over the course of five weeks. Both needed sutures and rehydration therapy.

Eagles being held before being released
Sue Mitchell, Peggy Cook, and Michelle Rampersad hug rehabilitated bald eagles one last time before releasing them.

The Balm Boyette Scrub Nature Preserve is an ideal spot for releasing the birds due to the vastness of the open field and sky. More importantly, the area is considered neutral territory, meaning none of the birds were likely to claim the preserve as their turf and engage in combative behavior with one another.

Image Caption: Cheryl Merz released one of three rehabilitated eagles at Balm Boyette Scrub Nature Preserve on Feb. 14, 2023.
Posted: 2/19/2024, 9:44:28 PM