The Capture of Eagle #E47
By Craig Thompson and Brian Conway

February 6, 2001
We have a new bird "on-line," Eagle #E47. She is a beautiful adult female caught near the Hudson River about 20 miles north of Albany. Here is the story, right from our trappers mouths, Craig Thompson and Brian Conway:

On February 5, a heavy storm blanketed the northeast in 2-3 feet of snow. After laying low during bad weather, eagles often forage as soon as the weather clears. So before dawn on February 6, after the storm had passed the Hudson Valley, we set several padded leg-hold traps at areas where we had often seen adult eagles hunting.

For bait we used a combination of ducks, geese, and gizzard shad (large fish). All morning several adult eagles showed interest in the bait, one even tearing loose a fish that had been staked to the ground while in flight, never even landing.

Compare this Alaskan biologist's hand to the size of the eagle's feet. Can you spread your fingers 8 inches across like an eagle's foot can?

Photo: USFWS
Finally, at 10:00, one adult perched near a trap that had been placed along the Hoosic River, a tributary to the Hudson. After checking out the scene for a couple minutes, the eagle landed, walked toward a duck carcass, and stepped right into one of the buried traps. While leg-hold traps are usually used for trapping mammals, they also work very well for large birds, and are heavily padded so as not to cause any injury. Believe it or not, eagles caught in this way almost always get caught only by one toe; their feet, when spread, are about 8 inches across, wider than the trap mouth.

This eagle had not been previously banded, so we banded her (a female) E47 blue. And what a female she was! At just over 15 pounds, she is the largest eagle captured along the Hudson River (beating K58 by .1 kilogram) so far. Like the other eagles before her we attached a satellite transmitter so we (and you) can follow her migration this spring.

Note though, as always, we may have captured an eagle that is nesting in NY that we simply don't know of yet. We know of no nests currently in this vicinity. We will have to wait until spring to find out!