Far from his home of the mountainous northwest, a Golden Eagle is working his way back to health here in southeast Missouri.
Found in Ellington, Missouri, the cliff-dwelling eagle is recovering under the care of John Watkins, who runs Watkins Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Sedgewickville, Missouri.
Watkins isn’t sure how he got here, but he says they’ve come across many birds which aren’t native to Missouri, including arctic and common loons, a white-throated swift from California, and even blackbelly tree ducks, usually found in central America. But no Golden Eagles.
“We’ve had birds in the past who have gotten lost, and the wind can carry them a long ways,” says Watkins. “Then they end up not even knowing where they’re at.”
But Watkins did know he hadn’t been in the area for a very long time. He could tell by how healthy he looked -- no broken bones, wasting, or thinning from a lack of food.
The eagle was found lying down on his side, and was transported to Skyview Animal Clinic in Cape Girardeau by a Missouri Department of Conservation agent. There, he was given antibiotics, force fed, and cared for.
“When they put him in [a cage], he just lied on his side with his eyes closed,” says Watkins. “After about two or three hours, they came back and looked at him, and he was beginning to stand.”
Veterinarians continued to administer antibiotics, and by the next morning, he was able to stand and feed on his own. Watkins took over from there; he brought the eagle to his rehab center and kept him in intensive care until he regained his strength.
Watkins will keep an eye on the bird until the bad weather breaks. He says he and the MDC had discussed releasing him out West, but decided against it, as it would likely take a toll on the bird.
They now plan to release him within two or three weeks at Duck Creek Conservation Area in Stoddard County, which is highly populated with groundhogs, cottontail rabbits, ducks, geese, and small deer. Although this smorgasbord differs from a golden eagle’s typical dinner of prairie dogs, prairie chickens marmots, and the occasional antelope, Watkins says he should get by just fine.
“If he decides to stick around, he would have plenty of food down there,” says Watkins.