Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

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Bald Eagle Migration Update: February 25, 2004

Today's Report Includes:

Back to the Eagles
"Hi Kids," Pete wrote this weekend, "Just back from a week with family skiing in Quebec; but here's the data." One look and you'll see that the eagles aren't ready to venture up to Canada for skiing or nesting!

Latest Data and Migration Map
Everybody is STILL staying put!

Link to Latest Data:


Thinking Like an Eagle
The cold arctic air that spread across the northeast last week seems to have held the eagles tight.

Take a look at the map of minimum temperatures in the US. Imagine the map included Canada:

  • How would the patterns extend further north?
  • Why are the eagles staying put?
  • Can you see a relationship?

Injured Eagle: Fly Away Home
Park Rapids, MN students have been part of our Bald Eagle Migration studies the past few years. They are also involved with eagle rehabilitation. Injured eagles found in their area are flown to the Univ. of MN Raptor Center in St. Paul for treatment and eventual release after rehabilitation.
This year Mr. Maanum and others at their school convinced the Raptor Center to ship one of their eagles back up to them in Park Rapids for release. Do you think this eagle would have found its way back to home if it had been released in St. Paul (over 150 miles away)?
Releasing rehab eagle in Park Rapids

This rehabilitated eagle had a fish hook in its stomach.

Lead Poisoning: A Rehab Story

Bill Streeter holding Eagle #004 while Peter Nye adjusts her band.

Eagle 004 couldn't have been luckier. Given just a couple more days in the wild, she would have been a dead bird. It was just two days before Christmas 2000, when 004 was picked up along a roadside in Hamilton County, NY, alive, but unable to fly. The diagnosis of lead-poisoning came quickly; the cure did not. For five weeks veterinarian Marie Rush and staff of the Health Center Intensive care unit painstakingly rid 004 of her lead, and patiently provided physical therapy to prevent her muscles and joints from seizing up.

Read the details of Eagleye Nye's story of this eagle's rehabilitation:

Many poisons in the environment slowly or quickly break down into less harmful chemicals. For example, DDT, is a complicated, big molecule that very slowly breaks down into smaller molecules. But lead is different. It's an element, so it's already as broken down as it can get, and never gets less toxic in nature. And once lead is in nature, there is no easy way to get it out. Eagle 004 was very sick and almost died from lead poisoning. How did that bird come into contact with lead? How does this element get into the environment? These are all important questions.

Challenge Question #6:
"How does lead get into the bodies of wild animals and what can we do to help prevent lead-poisoning?"

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Catch and Carry: Talons vs. Beaks
Last week we read about a winter visit to an open patch of water on the Mississippi River in Minnesota. Eagles and ducks were both finding the fishing good. While the ducks snatched their dinners out of the water using their bills, the eagles had a different plan. Once an eagle spotted a fish in the water it would drop down and snatch the fish out of the water with its talons (if it was lucky enough to succeed).
Eagles, hawks and owls have a very sharp beak as well as talons. Many of them use their talons to grab a prey animal, and then use the sharp point of their beak to bite the animal at the base of the skull, or in the neck, to kill it. Eagles don't bother with that when they're carrying a fish, but ones that learn to hunt rabbits or ducks may. Even though an eagle's beak is strong, powerful, and huge, it never carries sticks or fish in its beak. Can you think of some reasons why eagles always carry items in their talons rather than their beaks?

Challenge Question #7:
"Why do you think eagles carry their prey with their talons and not in their beaks? List as many reasons as you can."

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Why Count Eagles in Winter? Discussion of CQ #5
Peter Nye says New York's eagle counts are always sure to be the highest in January. We asked you, "Why do you think more bald eagles are found in New York during the winter months than at any other time of the year?"

Iselin Middle School 7th Graders' discussion led to these great ideas:

"Bald Eagles are found in New York State in the winter months because during the Canadian winters it gets very cold. In Canada, the lakes probably get frozen, so they can't get their main diet, fish. New York State's temperatures are warmer than Canada during the winter. The warmer weather will break up some of the lakes which allows the eagles more access to fish."

Fifth graders at Park Rapids Middle School discussed the question and added a few more interesting possibilities:

* Some of the New York eagles that migrated further south are beginning to return to their home territory, meaning an overlap of eagles may be seen together at this time of year.

* With all the lakes frozen the eagles are congregated at open areas - rivers, etc. making for a concentration of eagles, all looking for food.

Eagles and Hockey?
Putting all other scientific reasoning behind, Park Rapids students were wondering if maybe the eagles gather in New York at this time of year because they are New York Ranger fans. (!)

Bald Eagle Adaptations: Talons - Challenge Question #8
This spring we're looking closely at eagles, from head to toe. Each week, we'll pose a Challenge Question related to the next week's featured adaptation. Remember: There's always a WHY behind WHAT you see. So whenever you see an unusual behavior or body part, ask yourself WHY...

Are you ready for this week's adaptation?

Eagles, like other birds of prey, have very special feet, different from all other animals. We call those special feet talons. Eagle feet, of course, have claws. But so do the feet on dogs, cats, squirrels, raccoons, robins, and even tiny hummingbirds.

What makes eagle feet different? First, the claws must be strong and sharp. When an eagle catches a fish, those claws have to slice into a stiff, strong fish with thick scales protecting its body.

But sharp claws are NOT the reason eagle feet are called talons--after all, cats have sharp claws, too, but they don't have talons. What makes talons different?

Challenge Question #8:
"What's the difference between claws and talons?"

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.

Now’s Your Chance: Ask the Bald Eagle Expert
Do you have a question you want to ask Peter Nye? Remember, the deadline is Noon Central (or 1 pm Eastern time) on March 5, 2004.

If you have trouble, please contact the Journey North office: our feedback form

Answers from the Bald Eagle Expert will be posted on March 19, 2004 via e-mail and on the Journey North Web site.

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:

IMPORTANT: Answer only ONE question in each e-mail message.

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #6 (or #7 or #8).
3. In the body of EACH message, answer ONE of the questions above.

The Next Bald Eagle Migration Update Will Be Posted on March 3, 2004.

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