Volunteers unite to return fallen eaglet to nest

Volunteers unite to return fallen eaglet to nest

REDDING, Calif. - A group of people joined together Thursday night and Friday morning in Redding for a unique rescue mission. They collaborated to help a young bald eagle after the bird apparently 80 feet from its nest.

The 8 week old eaglet lives in a nest with its parents on McConnell Foundation property off Old Oregon Trail in Redding.

Thursday night a nearby resident, Cristan Norman, was walking and came across the eaglet on the ground under the nest.

"It was raising its wings and hissing at me," said Norman. "It didn't seem to be injured because it was able to raise its wings."

At the age of 8 weeks, eaglets will typically start to jump on branches. Norman estimated this eaglet was still approximately 3-4 weeks from starting to fly. Norman said it's too early to determine if the bird is male or female, but its large size seemed to suggest it was a female.

A veterinarian examined the bird and confirmed it was not injured.  Norman is an elementary school teacher who once worked as a wildlife biologist with the California Department of  Fish and Wildlife. She offered to care for the bird overnight, keeping it in a large plastic tub next to her bed.

Friday morning, Norman and a team of eagle experts assembled to get the bird back home. Joining in the effort were Terry Lhuillier and Kit Harvey from the group Friends of the Redding Eagles; and Sue Walden from the Shasta Wildlife Refuge.  

Norman said it was incredible how many people came together for the impromptu mission. McHale Sign Company in Redding donated the use of a lift truck to get the eagle back to its nest.

Around 9 a.m., crew members Kevin Corey and Mike Berlik from McHale Sign Company used a lift to raise the bird 80 feet back to its home in a grey pine tree.

Norman rode along in the lift with Corey, and carefully placed the bird back in the nest.

Crews then quickly cleared the area and waited at a distance to see if the eaglet's parents would return.  Although the bird was not injured, it appeared to be dehydrated.

Norman explained because eaglets are confined to the nest at this age, they do not drink water. They rely on food to supply their hydration. The eaglet had refused to eat salmon Norman had tried to feed it.

Terry Lhuillier said about an hour after the eaglet was returned to the nest, the mother eagle returned and started feeding it.  

Lhuillier regularly monitors eagles' nests across Shasta County.  She said Shasta County has the largest concentration of bald eagle nests in California.

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