Wednesday, April 08, 2015

A Four Recap

Earlier this week, a follower asked us for a recap of eagle Four’s life. Four was one of three eaglets that hatched in 2014. While early life in the nest was fairly ordinary, gnats and record-breaking rain interfered with fledging. For the first time that we know of, only one of the 2014 Decorah alumni successfully transitioned to life in the wild. One of Four’s siblings was injured and went to SOAR, where he  remains. The other sibling died of electrocution from a high voltage transmission line not far from the hatchery.

Four’s transition from fledge to flight was a bumpy one. During her first month on the wing, Bob rescued her from a location at the side of a highway, a fence, some deep woods, and a corn field. She roosted on the ground, traveled only short distances, and remained in the vicinity of the nest longer than any other eaglet we are aware of. We were starting to ask ourselves if Four would ever go when, on October 19, she abruptly left. Between June 22, 2014 and March 1, 2015, we received 302 valid fixes on Four. She traveled a total of 686 miles, averaging 2.2 miles a day. She achieved her furthest distance from home on January 8, 2015, when she was tracked 159 miles south of her natal nest. Her longest contiguous flight took place on December 1st, when she traveled 34.8 miles between the Maquoketa River and a roost near Lake McBride. She was electrocuted on March 2nd, roughly 130 miles south of N2.

After Four was electrocuted, we documented her death and reported it to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. We also contacted Alliant Power with photos of the pole under which Bob found her. When we were told it was up to code, Bob decided to get a second opinion. Contact number two told us that several things needed to be fixed to make the pole safe for birds. We passed the information back to Alliant Energy and decided to survey the area for more eagles. Two Ustream mods volunteered to conduct the survey for us. They didn’t find any eagles, but they did learn about another electrocution. They provided photos of that pole and several others. Alliant stated that they would fix the fatal poles and others like them. Thank you very much to IzzySam and Faith for taking this on for us.

We plan to take a trip back into the area where Four died to see whether Alliant fixed the poles as promised. The code we used to follow the travels of our eagles will be repurposed to map electrocutions and identify problem spots. While not every pole can be immediately protected, we can make dangerous poles a priority. Four touched a lot of hearts during her brief life. It is our hope that her death will bring about a safer environment for eagles and other birds.

Four's data is retained here:

What can you do?

  • Find out whether your utility has an avian protection plan. If they don't, they should consider adopting one. An APP helps keep animals, equipment, and people safe.
  • Report electrocuted birds and other animals to your power company. Electrocutions are deadly to animals, harmful to equipment, and potentially dangerous to human beings. 
  • Report collisions to your power company. While our eagles have been electrocuted perching on poles, collisions are also deadly. Swan diverters and other deterrents can be installed.
  • If you are a member of an electric cooperative, make your concerns known to the board. I know of at least one electric cooperative in the process of retrofitting all their poles are safe. Electrocutions destroy equipment, require unscheduled repair time, and are expensive. 


lcrn1943 said...

Thank you. It was a sad commentary, but a good recap of Four's short life. We loved watching her from her hatch till she fledged and then stayed around. Thanks to Sherri we were able to get some word and actual pictures of her. I hope and pray that this year's threesome will have better outcomes. And thanks for all you do!

Winona Musgrove said...

Thanks so much for the recap of Four. I'm sure everyone will read it and appreciate it. Even if it makes tears come to your eyes.

Orchard Ranch said...

Thank you for the "what you can do" suggestion. I just checked our power company's policy and they do have an avian protection program and claim to actively monitor their poles. I think our university's biology department does pole-watching as well. But I'm still going to keep an eye our for our flying friends!