Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Leucistic Golden Eagle - Update II

On July 12, 2008 the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo admitted a very unique patient: a leucistic Golden Eagle. Leucism, sometimes called (incorrectly) ‘partial albinism’, is a genetic condition where the creature's cells contain pigments, but not all of the pigments are turned on. In albinism, the animal has no pigmentation at all; to the degree its eyes appear red. Leucistic animals have some pigment; either all-over lighter than normal, or a blotchy-white patch or two…and dark eyes. You can view photos of leucistic creatures here.

For the past several months, the young eagle (ID# 08-4082) has been convalescing from a soft tissue injury to the left shoulder, extensive damage to its feathers and a heavy parasite load. The eagle’s feathers were literally shredded. Some of them were just shafts; the webbing had been worn away. Others had been damaged from a type of lice that eats the feathers. The Center estimates that some 70% of his feathers were dam­aged to some degree. His recovery will take some time and there is no projected release date. For now he still needs rest, good food and more time to heal. Because the Golden Eagle is under rehabilitation care, he is not available for public viewing.

However, I just spoke with the caretaker at the center and discovered the eagle is doing very well; though he has good days and bad. His shoulder has healed and he was flying the length of the cage in which he has been held these past months. Due to some work at the Center, the opportunity was taken to move the bird to a larger flight-cage where he continues to improve. He continues to replace feathers, and has gained weight he lost when unable to fly.

It appears this Golden Eagle is 1-2 years old…that he has survived that long is a testament to his ability to take care of himself; generally only about 30% of eaglets survive as long. While the lack of pigment makes feathers weak and prone to faster wear and tear, #4082 has molted and his new feathers are coming in somewhat darker than they were. It is possible the UV rays will bleach them lighter again…we don’t know for sure what to expect.

He continues to improve; it is possible he will be released in the future…perhaps to a more remote location where he will be safe. Because he is a young bird it is not necessary to return him to the location where he was found. It is most likely that, if he is able to be returned to the wild, no announcement will be made…until after the fact. Again, these precautions are all about keeping the bird safe.

Be sure to visit the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo; you can read their newsletter online and even view some of the birds by remote camera…as soon as they hook it back up; the birds are getting a new roof! http://www.natureandraptor.org

Just for fun, here's a cool site with lots of beautiful white birds


Debbie said...

Thanks for the update. Have you been able to see him? Sounded like you have an "in" with the rehab center.

Beverly said...

Well, while he was in the cage where the Cam is installed; I watched him there, but I've not seen him in person.

Nope, no 'in'...just called and asked. :)

I'm glad you enjoyed the update!

me ann my camera said...

This is a fascinating post about the Eagle and also a wonderful explanation of the difference between albinism and leucistic. Great pictures too.

Thank you for your comments on the deer I saw in my yard this morning; they are much appreciated. No matter how many times I see them I always find them beautiful and fascinating to watch.

Beverly said...

Perhaps because he was found in Southern Colorado, perhaps just because he’s an odd duck…but I’ve been very interested in this eagle. I haven’t actually seen him myself, but he seems such a scrappy thing; I do hope he makes it. If you know how to use the search function here (when it works), you can find a couple other stories and different photos of the bird…as well as more information on leucism and a couple shots of what I believe is a leucistic Eurasian Collared-dove in my yard. Bill Thompson (Bill of the Birds) has a story about a leucistic Junco that has visited his place for a couple years…which he named Snowflake. 

Yeah, I like the deer. I have shots of them around my place too; they nap in the grassy drive that leads to the river, behind my home. I’m so happy my big dog just ignores ‘em.

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

It is nice to see these pictures. It was an awesome day when my husband found this unique bird and we helped the local game warden rescue him. The pictures I have of him in the wild are really cool, but some of them at dusk make him look darker than he was then, but awesome pictures non the less. One of the pictures even went to National Geographic online.
Thanks for the update, we enjoyed seeing him again.


Great Article. Thanks for the info. Does anyone know where I can find a blank "2010 FWS 3-200-15A" to fill out?