Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Wednesday, June 10, 2020 - By: Adriane Pettit & Michael Miller

Walking. I have been known to walk for hours. Sometimes with purpose but always with passion; observing, soul-searching and recharging. No different was the afternoon of April 14th, although the activities that occurred on the beach in the estuary were both magical and sombre, forever changing the lives of three Brentwood teachers.

When the text came from Mrs Patel it simply said “You need to come down and see the eagle show”. From behind my computer where I sat teaching online courses, I had heard the birds calling out to one another for hours. I was curious to see what these protected creatures were up to.

Apparently the eagle had been standing knee-high, at the edge of the cliff looking down into the estuary when it was first discovered. Oddly, it hadn’t taken flight when Hudson, the Warner’s golden retriever, passed through with persistent barking. Perhaps the bird was injured and the conservation officer, or even Mr Miller, biology teacher and resident ornithologist, should be contacted. We arrived at the Head’s residence, footsteps behind the Wismer children, whose gleeful laughter had stopped. With honesty and innocence four-year-old Bea said “That eagle, he died.”

Incredibly, this beautiful beast was face down on the rocks, his feathered friends circling overhead.

Within minutes of being called and texted: “DEAD EAGLE. CAN YOU HELP?”, Mr Miller arrived, equipped with working gloves and a large plastic bag. Hurriedly, with concern, he walked purposefully down the driveway and onto the beach where we waited. Like handling a newborn, his caring hands cradled the bird and turned him gently upon his back on the scattered stone shore. Delicately, with curiosity and disbelief, the investigation began.

Mrs. Adriane Pettit

Ornithology is a branch of zoology that deals with the study of birds.

Indeed, this poor bird had died. Like many other birds of prey, male Bald Eagles are smaller than females. By the size of this bird, it was a male in full, characteristic adult plumage.

The bird was in poor condition: its breast bone hatchet-shaped above the surrounding reduced muscle mass. He felt light, less than the characteristic 4 kg. I looked for any obvious signs of trauma and did not find any.

I had studied Bald Eagles and their exposure to lead for my master’s thesis and knew that wildlife officials would be interested to see if this bird had succumbed to some sort of toxicity.

The bird was forwarded to a veterinarian colleague in Nanaimo, where a post-mortem was undertaken. Preliminary results suggest a puncture wound to the chest, perhaps the result of this bird being attacked after entering the territory of our resident eagles in Mill Bay. Intraspecies aggression during the nesting period can be quite high.

A full toxicology report should present more information as to how the life of this majestic bird came to an end.
The Native Eagle Symbol is known as “The master of skies” and is a symbol of great significance. He is believed to be the creature with the closest relationship with the creator. Soaring to great heights, he can travel between the physical and the spiritual world. He is said to be a messenger to the creator. https://spiritsofthewestcoast.com/collections/the-eagle-symbol

Mr Michael Miller

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