Unusual golden eagle recovering at Pueblo raptor center | VailDaily.com

Unusual golden eagle recovering at Pueblo raptor center

Bill ScanlonRocky Mountain News Vail, CO Colorado
Ken Papaleo/Rocky Mountain NewsA golden eagle is seen Wednesday morning in the hospital section of the Nature & Rapture Center of Pueblo.

PUEBLO, Colorado A stunning and unusual eagle is being nursed back to health in Pueblo with hopes that it may someday return to the wild.The golden eagle is cream-colored with a hint of light brown and red in its feathers, a result of its leucistic condition.Its not an albino, but the signals to tell its feathers to produce pigment arent working, hence the very light color, said Diana Miller, raptor center director at the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo.Colorado Division of Wildlife officials brought the bird to Millers center July 12 after a rancher near Trinidad alerted them to the eagles condition.The rancher had found it walking along a fence in one of his fields.He was very thin, in very poor feather condition, Miller said. We have noticed that he also has an old shoulder injury, which probably will heal nicely.But he also had a very heavy load of bird lice parasites chewing on his feathers.The eagle is about 2 years old, still a youngster in the eagle world, Miller said.Even very white birds like sea gulls have black pigment on the bottom of their feathers, and that ensures the feathers will be strong and long-lasting, she said.This bird doesnt have that protective device, so its feathers are weak, making it difficult for him to survive in the wild, she said.But theres hope. He is molting now, and the new feathers are coming in a few shades darker. If that continues, he might someday be strong enough to survive in the wild.But first hell have to learn how to hunt.For now, the bird is being fed dead rabbits and rats in an enclosure 20 feet square. There is a big pool of water inside where he can bathe.If he continues to get stronger, raptor center workers will let loose live rodents in his enclosure and teach him how to hunt.He is all golden eagle. He is very wary of us, Miller said. Hes learning very quickly what different things mean.Already, he is no longer afraid of Miller carrying a dish because that means food and no grabbing, she said.And he likes to see the hose because that means his pen will be cooled off and hell get a nice spray against the hot days.But when he sees the blanket and the pair of gloves, he knows someone is trying to catch him and he acts very much the cranky golden eagle.Hes intelligent and curious, and he wants very much to be an eagle, she said.The Golden EagleDiet: Rabbits, hares, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, marmotsAverage lifespan in the wild: 30 yearsSize: Body, 3 feet; wingspan, 7 feet.Weight: 6 to 15 poundsHabitat: Tundra, pine forest, pion-juniper woodlands, sagebrush, grasslandsReproduction: Sometimes mate for life, usually one to three eggs at a time. Usually only one chick survives, having killed the younger ones.Description: Usually dark brown in color. Juveniles have a wide white ban at the base of their tails.

Support Local Journalism