Written by Lorraine Swanson
The injured bald eagle recovered from a backyard in Oak Lawn on Feb. 20 is recovering from surgery to remove a foreign object from the raptor’s wing last week at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center.
Animal control officers from Oak Lawn and Stickney Township rescued the ailing bald eagle after a resident reported a rather large bird sitting on the chainlink fencefor several days in his backyard, unable to fly.
The eagle was transferred to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn where it was quickly determined that that it was severely dehydrated. The eagle was immediately placed in a small enclosure, where he was given pain medications and antibiotics.
“We gave him a little time to calm down,” Bonnie Olszewski said, spokeswoman for the DuPage County Forest Preserves. “Our vets wrapped the bird’s wing. Sometimes they take the wrap off.”
Willowbrook Wildlife Center specializes in rehabilitating birds of prey or raptors, such as eagles, hawks and owls. Staff veterinarians specialized experience in wild animal care.
Olszewski said that without a DNA test, they couldn’t tell determine the eagle’s gender because male and female bald eagles have the same coloring. She did say that that the licensed wildlife experts believe Oak Lawn’s bald eagle is a male and over five years old.
“Male eagles are smaller than females,” Olszewski said. “Since this bird is on the smaller side, it may be a male. He is definitely more than five years old because it takes that length of time for the feathers to come out white on the head. Young eaglets are born with brown feathers on their heads.”
Last week, X-rays determined that the eagle had a fractured wing and required surgery. The vet at the wildlife center removed a metal object from the eagle’s wing.
“It was some sort of metal piece,” Olszewski said. “We don’t think it’s a beebee or from a pellet gun. It is probably some type of shot.”
In such cases, wildlife centers are required to notify the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The eagle will graduate to a sightly larger enclosure, where he can spread his wings and continue to recover. Eventually, he will move to an outdoor flight enclosure when he can become reacclimated to the weather and staff can continue to monitor the eagle’s recovery. More importantly, he will be able to fly around and get his wings strong again.
As with all raptors and wild animals being nursed back to health at Willowbrook, the eagle will not be on public display during his recovery period.
“For wildlife anticipating release back into the wild, we don’t want them to get used to people,” Olszewski said. “They’re not on public display. We avoid handling them too much. Our staff only do what they need to do. We don’t give them names or treat them like pets.”
Fortunately, the Oak Lawn eagle did not need a pin or wire placed in his wing. Staff at the wildlife center are optimistic that he will make a full recovery and eventually be released back into the wild in the late spring or early summer.