I last saw the juvenile White-tailed Eagle on the nest the 31st of July and it looked fit and ready to fly. A relief, because the expected moment for its departure was long overdue, why I, and others, have been wondering if it was sick or just had grown to be a lazy teenager reluctant to start a life on its own.
But my feeling of optimism only lasted a few days, until yesterday when I met Stefan Stürup, DOF-kbh, in the forest, where he told me that, just five minutes earlier, the eagle had been caught to be transferred to a rehab-station in Jylland.
Apparently the bird had been found by visitors near the golf course the day before, sitting on the ground. And according to the rescuer-team the bird had difficulty flying, because it was missing all the remiges in one of the hands!
Stefan says, this is not unheard of among raptors. I haven't been able to find information that supports this, or for that matter, any that rejects it, but a completely asymmetrical damage, and apparently a clear-cut one, in my eyes, does smell more like a mechanical cause than an internal disorder.
I admit, it would suit my anti-banding agenda better, if I knew the bird had been injured when the DOF-people put on the gps-transmitter back in June. Because this in fact happened, just after I told them that there was a young eagle on its way in Kongelunden this year. But it would probably be to stretch my discontent too far, and even more so because the photos I have from June 19 show two complete and healthy-looking hands. And this was the day after I took another photo that seems to show something attached to the bird's back.
So what happened will be pure guessing, but one could speculate that perhaps an intruder, another eagle, had attacked the young on the nest while the parents were away.
One or the other, Stefan said the bird didn't look sick, and in fact, the only reason why the rescuers decided to bring it to the rehab-station was, that there was too much traffic in the forest; that it would disturb and stress the bird unnecessarily. Under normal conditions the parents would still attend the young, but perhaps not with all the dog-owners, horse-riders, mountain-bikers, joggers, police-dog-trainers, mushroom-collectors, berry-collectors, birders, photographers and other good or less so people flowing by continuously.
Their plan therefore was to keep the bird for 2-3 weeks, until the wing would be fully-grown again, and then release it again in the same place. I assume in the nest? The parents are supposed to accept the offspring even after some while away. Let's hope it goes this way.
This happened on August 4 why August 25 will be the day to look forward to with anticipation.
On Sep 4 Karsten Busk told me that the eagle had been released back to the area a week and a half ago, but with no further information. Two days ago Steffen Sunshine Nielsen could add to the story, that the bird had wisely been released on Aflandshage and not to the nest or elsewhere in the forest. But it did not respond successfully to its new status as a healthy young eagle about to start it free-flying as a such. Something was obviously still wrong with it, because it was being found walking around along Kalvebodvej, and had been seen falling into a water trough for horses. Apparently it still couldn't fly, and as a consequence it was captured again, and taken to a rehab-station. I guess both to protect it and to find out what was wrong with it. Steffen didn't know what they found out, if anything, but he knew that it had finally died while in their custody!
UPDATE II (2021-10-30):
Met Thomas Hellesen today and he told me that, after corresponding with DOF about this very strange and unfortunate episode, they had finally admitted that the eagle had indeed been injured when they tried to band it! Somehow they had lost control when handling the bird, and it fell out of the nest and consequently broke all the long primaries in one of the hands. Of course it is most likely that the wing got damaged internally as well, otherwise it would have recovered perfectly (if its misfortune wasn't simply initiated by the psychological trauma it obviously must have experienced).
The order of facts remains a bit unclear to me unless the bird was handled twice. Thomas said it happened when they tried to band it, why I guess that was actually the case. A complete lack of professionalism, if so, putting maximum stress on the bird.
The only information to be found about the incident on the DOF website is a short and lame note informing that the bird has died, probably because of starvation...
The eagle as it looked when it was still a healthy and free bird!