On Thursday, March 18, Audubon Eagle Watch volunteer Rosemary Tolliver spotted a nine to10-week-old eaglet that had fallen to the ground beneath its nest on Marco Island. The eaglet, nicknamed Roman by Tolliver, was taken to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples on Friday, March 19.
“Nancy Judd, the other Audubon Eagle Watch volunteer who watches the nest, spotted him down in the tree on Wednesday,” said Tolliver. “He was about 20 feet beneath the nest. It looks like the nest might have partially collapsed. He was in the tree all day Wednesday. Thursday morning, he wasn’t in the tree. And after searching for quite a while, I found him in the underbrush. I saw him moving around. He looked kind of stunned. I immediately called FWC and the Conservancy because I wasn’t sure who could help me.”
Tolliver said that the eaglet’s fall may have occurred as part of the bird’s fledging process.
“They usually fledge around 10 to12 weeks,” Tolliver said. “First, they will do something called branching, where they try flying from the nest to a branch on the tree, learn to perch on a branch, and fly back. They do that before they try to fly away and come back. I hadn’t seen him branching before. I got some good pictures of him a couple of days before, up in the nest, with his wings spread like, ‘I’m the king of the world. I’m ready to go!’”
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) sent an officer to investigate in response to Tolliver’s call.
“The officer went closer to the eaglet,” Tolliver said, “because I didn’t want to stress it out. Nancy and I were there with the FWC officer. She said when she approached the eaglet it had gotten up and moved about 10 feet. She thought it was best to wait and see if it would find its way out of the underbrush and try to fly up to the tree. She thought it would be best to wait 24 hours.”
“Thursday he was found under the nest tree,” Tolliver continued. “He did find his way out of the underbrush. I saw him in the taller grass. I’m sure he was tired. I went back later that night and he had moved back further in the tall grasses.”
“Friday morning, I had a better chance to take a look. He wasn’t flapping his wings like we saw him do in the nest. But he was moving. That’s why I nicknamed him Roman. Because he was roaming all over the place.”
“I called the Conservancy and they sent out Tim Thompson. He took him to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital on Friday.”
On Monday, Tolliver got a call from the Conservancy.
“They said the eaglet is doing well but not ready to go back to the nest,” Tolliver reported. “We are hoping that the adult eagles stay in the area. There was trauma from the fall, but no obvious fractures. He is currently hesitant to use the left wing and he is unsteady on his feet. He is still in the hospital and is not ready yet to go to an outdoor recovery space.”
Three weeks ago, Tolliver discovered Roman’s sibling dead in the underbrush. She hopes to see Roman back in the nest soon.
“As I like to say, talons crossed that roamin’ Roman gets reunited with its parents,” Tolliver said.