A roughly 3-month-old bald eagle fell from its nest that sat 80 feet up in a poplar tree on the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast Washington and was found about six blocks away on a sidewalk, animal experts said.
The incident began Thursday when the eaglet, named Valor, slipped and fell from a branch of the nest tree, according to Dan Rauch, the city’s wildlife biologist. Its fall was caught on the eagle camera that monitors the nest.
“You could see him slip, try to recover and, whoops, fall off,” Rauch said.
Rauch found the eagle the next day. It was under the tree and soaking wet, he said. The eagle is one of two born in the spring to parents Mr. President and the First Lady. Several other eagles were born in the spring across the D.C. region.
Rauch said he left the eaglet alone but kept watch nearby for several hours. By Thursday afternoon, the eagle hadn’t moved much, so he coaxed it into a small tree and hoped it would roost.
But then on Friday, it disappeared.
“Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I couldn’t find him,” Rauch said. Then, on Monday, someone called to tell wildlife officials that they’d spotted a large bird in the Carver Terrace apartment community. It was sitting on a sidewalk.
Rauch, who was a few blocks away, said he went there and found the eagle at 1100 19th St. NE. He said the eagle appeared upset and “a little confused.” It was about six blocks from his nest at the arboretum.
Rauch said he called the city’s animal-control crew and others from City Wildlife, a group that helps rehabilitate injured animals, to help him get the eagle. The bird was starting to get “a little agitated” by people coming to look at it, so Rauch said he got a towel, got a hold of the bird and wrapped it in it. Then someone brought him a large dog crate so the bird could be safely kept in that until others arrived.
One woman told Rauch that she had seen the eagle in one of her trees but left it alone.
Bald eagles typically fledge the nest between 11 and 15 weeks of age. Rauch said eagles will often jump up and down in the nest to build up their wing muscles as they prepare to take their first flight.
Valor, he said, just wasn’t quite ready.
Animal-control crews figured the eaglet could use a little checking on. So they took it to City Wildlife’s facilities and had it examined by their vet. She found that it seemed fine and had no obvious injuries, just some ruffled feathers. Rauch said it looked as though the eaglet hadn’t eaten in a few days but otherwise seemed okay.
Valor’s sibling, Victory, has fledged the nest and is seen coming and going from it.
Rauch said it seemed that Valor may have fallen out of the nest too early. He said it is important for eagles to fledge the nest and learn to hunt with their parents and come back into the nest.
Wildlife experts said they are watching the eagle at their facility to make sure it’s okay to go back to the nest. Getting it there will not be an easy task, according to Rauch, because the bird is large, and the nest is high in the tree.
Last year, animal experts had to help a bald eagle after its leg got caught in a branch at a nest on the arboretum grounds. Two professional climbers helped rescue it after it got its leg “lodged in a Y-shaped stick” in the nest that sat 80 feet off the ground.
Rauch said he expects Valor will be fine.
“He just wasn’t quite there,” Rauch said in terms of Valor trying to leave the nest. “It wasn’t ready.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Rauch said officials had decided to send Valor to a rehab center for birds in Delaware so that he could put on some weight. He said he was about 5½ pounds and should gain a few pounds before being released back into the nest. He said he would probably be put back in the nest later this week.