Shot eaglet returned to nest

THE six-month-old African crowned eagle found injured last week has recently been release back to its parents, returning to its nest.

After some time spent at the Nahoon Bird and Animal clinic being monitored daily, it was decided that the bird was ready to be released at the site where the nest is situated.

“After the eaglet had some difficulty flying, the parent birds managed to cajole it up the tree and back into its nest where it was rewarded with a meal of fresh dassie,” explained Nahoon Bird and Animal Clinic veterinarian, Dr Peter Wood.

The injured animal was brought to the clinic after being found, unable to fly, by Nahoon residents, Jilly Gooud and Deon Mcquirk. Gooud has closely monitored the eagle’s parents nesting in a tree in her garden for the past three years.

After detailed x-rays, it was discovered that the bird had been shot with a pellet gun. The pellet is lodged between the bird’s lungs and was hindering its flight.

“The pellet was too deep to remove because the chances of doing more harm were greater than doing any good. We’re still unsure of what kind of damage was done, but our assumption is that the bird’s main flight muscles, the pectoral muscles, were damaged,” said Wood.

“Thankfully no major blood-vessels were hit and its survival chances are good. Future problems, however, could include lead poisoning from the pellet still lodged in its chest,” Wood said.

The African crowned eagle is one of South Africa’s many near- threatened bird species, with numbers decreasing due to deforestation. This has caused many to flock to residential areas and nest in people’s gardens causing a clash between man and wildlife.

“People often get nervous with these large birds of prey around. Especially when they have small dogs or cats. These birds mainly feed on dassies, but they can snatch small pets as well. We have had cases in the past,” Wood said.

These magnificent creatures can grow to up to 4kg in weight, with females going up to 4.7kg.

The juvenile crowned eagle is strikingly different in colour, with a bright white head and underside, as opposed to the black-brown colouring of its adult counterpart.

African crowned eagles only raise one chick a year, taking up to 11 months for the chick to leave the nest and fend for itself.

“They are beautiful creatures and we need to respect them. Its everyone’s responsibility to protect and conserve our wildlife,” Wood said.

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