Good news about bald eagles is in the air. An eagle that was reported missing from its nest near the District’s police academy has returned.
And an eagle that was found in distress near the academy, and was once thought to be the missing eagle, has thrived in the interim. It has been released, hopefully to soar as one more free-flying embodiment of the spirit of America.
The tale, featuring not one, but two of the majestic and fierce-looking creatures that exert a firm grasp on the popular imagination, begins in Southeast Washington on July 1.
That afternoon, an eagle was found on the ground, unable to fly, near Eighth and Xenia streets SE — about a mile and a half from the police academy, where two eagles, Liberty and Justice, had long been under video watch and thus become local celebrities.
As it happens, the grounded eagle was found at the time that one of the two academy eagles was missing. Wildlife specialists made the logical deduction.
“We thought it was one of the ones from that nest,” said Dan Rauch, a wildlife biologist with the District’s Department of Energy and Environment. Specialists thought the animal was Justice, Rauch said.
Probably, the specialists thought, the ferocious rainstorm that raked the city that afternoon forced the bird down.
Whatever its identity, the eagle seemed to need help.
After examination at City Wildlife, the rescue and rehabilitation center in the District, the eagle, still thought to be Justice, was sent to a wildlife center in Delaware for further examination.
While it was there, an important event occurred. In the second week of July, the true Justice, the male of the police academy pair, returned without explanation to the nest, wildlife authorities said.
So the eagle being treated in Delaware was not Justice. It was, rather, one of the more than 16,000 other eagles thought to inhabit the United States.
At any rate, the mystery eagle was flying well in a flight cage at the Delaware center last week, said Paula Goldberg, the executive director of City Wildlife.
On Thursday, the Delaware center said the eagle, after demonstrating its readiness, “was returned to the skies.”
It was fitted with a leg band for identification. So far, no bird with that band has been spotted again, Rauch said. Nobody can say where the eagle was headed. But no news appears to be good news.