Despite a dismantled nest, the missing baby eagle is alive and on the move, much to the delight of its fans.
Roy and Linda Cruse of South Bluff Road found the big baby bird perched on their back fence at 1:15 p.m. Friday.
“This bird symbolizes freedom for everybody,” said Candy Ridlbauer of Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education.
The eaglet sat nervously on the fence for about 10 minutes, and then moved to the front lawn’s lilac bush. It then spread its wings and landed briefly on Riverview School before gaining confidence and soaring back toward the Rock River.
The eagle was well over two feet tall and appeared in good health. It allowed onlookers to get up to four feet away, before hopping away. The Cruses contacted Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education, but Ridlbauer said the eaglet wouldn’t need a rescue if it was successfully flying.
“It would be kidnapping and not helping it,” Ridlbauer said. “There’s really no reason to get him unless he’s injured.”
Four rescuers from the organization had been scouring the woods Tuesday through Thursday to find the missing eaglet. On Monday nature fans Patsy Litten and Peggy Lund of Beloit had been documenting two baby eagles and their parents in the woods behind Axium Foods in South Beloit when the nest fell.
The first baby, a female, was severely dehydrated and was found resting on a tree branch. She was taken to Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education for rehabilitation, and will be released back into the wild within two weeks.
The second baby, however, hadn’t been seen since the nest was blown over, and fans worried it could have perished in the heat. Ridlbauer noted that the one eaglet had been reportedly eating fish shortly before the nest blew down, which could have sustained it.
After its Friday flight, Ridlbauer said the missing eaglet should be able to survive on its own now. She invited people to call her at 815-633-9193 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if they spot the eaglet again so she can determine the eagle family’s geographic location. Once the first eaglet is restored to health she will be released to reunite with her parents and sibling bird.
“The bird needs to be with the family so parents can teach it to hunt and be an eagle,” Ridlbauer said. .
Roy Cruse isn’t a stranger to eagle sightings or shattered nests. Over the years he has witnessed two eagle nests in the woods behind his home blown over due to winds.
The past winter and spring, however, they didn’t get the pleasure of seeing any eagles. Roy Cruse said the mild winter didn’t push them down from the North as usual. He never dreamed he would be seeing any eagles this season, until the big brown foundling arrived at his back door.
Roy Cruse was optimistic the eagle would be safe in the woods behind his home, noting it would be able to swoop down and pluck fish out of the river.
Because the two eaglets were in a nest so close to humans at Axium Foods, they may get a bit closer to people than usual and may be quite visible in the coming months.
Ridlbauer said the two eagle babies were lucky its fans were keeping tabs on them. More than 50 percent of eagles don’t make it to a year old because of falling nests and potentially combative siblings.