Eagle found near Sadorus rehabilitating broken wing in Decatur

Eagle found near Sadorus rehabilitating broken wing in Decatur

By The Associated Press and The News-Gazette

DECATUR — A rare golden eagle found in a rural Sadorus field with a broken wing has been undergoing rehabilitation at the Illinois Raptor Center in Decatur.

The 8-pound bird, now named Midas, was found Oct. 25.

An area resident who spotted the 1-year-old eagle about a mile and a half northwest of Sadorus notified the Department of Natural Resources that day, and Conservation Officer John Williamson brought the bird to the University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic in Urbana.

Dr. Julia Whittington, clinical associate professor at the Wildlife Medical Clinic, said the conservation officer had to chase Midas for while before he got him.

"This bird was moving around, but it couldn't get enough lift to fly, which told us there likely was a wing injury," she told The News-Gazette in a story published Oct. 31.

The 3-foot-tall bird is dark brown, with light golden brown plumage on his head and neck and a triple-gray beak.

An X-ray taken at the Wildlife Medical Clinic showed a fracture of a bone on the bird's left wing. The staff gently put the eagle's wing in a bandage that conforms to the body's parts without restricting movement.

After the bird healed at the Wildlife Medical Clinic, Midas was brought to the center in Decatur on Dec. 6.

Finding the bird was a rare event, said Jacques Nuzzo, program director at the Illinois Raptor Center.

"A lot of people misidentify immature bald eagles as golden eagles," Nuzzo told the Decatur Herald & Review. "The chance of it being a golden eagle was next to nothing."

Midas is the center's first golden eagle, and caring for him has had some challenges, Nuzzo said. Golden eagles are larger and stronger than the more common bald eagles. They eat a lot of food and instead of diving for prey, they slam into them. Midas' diet in Decatur has included quail, rats and venison.

"Golden eagles are extremely powerful birds," Nuzzo said. But he said that if Midas were left injured in the wild "and he couldn't fly, he would probably be dead."

The bird's left wing was fractured, said Nicki Rosenhagen, a clinic manager at the UI.

"We kept the bird in a small enclosure to minimize activity," Rosenhagen said. "Birds heal quickly."

Nuzzo said he is rehabbing the bird's wing by putting food on a perch and forcing Midas to fly to it. Nuzzo plans to prepare the bird for release to the wild through controlled flying operations.

"We'll fly him on a line, to fly between two people for food on each end," Nuzzo said. "We are making him aware we're here to help. He wasn't trusting with people when he first came in. It's nice to be part of the healing process."

Golden eagles are more common in the western United States. About 50 golden eagles spend the winter in northwestern Illinois near Galena, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Nobody messes with a golden eagle," said Bob Russell, wildlife biologist for the federal agency. "They are better fliers than bald eagles. They're magnificent birds. They can soar effortlessly with just a little updraft. They circle slowly — big, wide circles a couple of hundred feet across."