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Decatur center treating injured golden eagle

December 29, 2012 at 12:09 AM

The Associated Press

DECATUR — A rare golden eagle found in a central Illinois field with a broken wing has been undergoing rehabilitation at the Illinois Raptor Center.

The 8-pound bird, now named Midas, was found north of Sadorus in Champaign County on Oct. 25. He has been at the center in Decatur since Dec. 6.

Finding the bird was a rare event, said Jacques Nuzzo, program director at the Illinois Raptor Center.

“A lot of people misidentify immature bald eagles as golden eagles,” Nuzzo told the Herald & Review. “The chance of it being a golden eagle was next to nothing.”

Midas is the center’s first golden eagle, and caring for him has had some challenges, Nuzzo said. Golden eagles are larger and stronger than the more common bald eagles. They eat a lot of food, and instead of diving for prey, they slam into them. Midas’ diet in Decatur has included quail, rats and venison.

“Golden eagles are extremely powerful birds,” Nuzzo said. But he said that if Midas were left injured in the wild “and he couldn’t fly, he would probably be dead.”

The bird’s left wing was fractured, said Nicki Rosenhagen, a clinic manager at the University of Illinois.

“We kept the bird in a small enclosure to minimize activity,” Rosenhagen said. “Birds heal quickly.”

Nuzzo said he is rehabbing the bird’s wing by putting food on a perch and forcing Midas to fly to it. Nuzzo plans to prepare the bird for release to the wild through controlled flying operations.

“We’ll fly him on a line, to fly between two people for food on each end,” Nuzzo said. “We are making him aware we’re here to help. He wasn’t trusting with people when he first came in. It’s nice to be part of the healing process.”

Golden eagles are more common in the western United States. About 50 golden eagles spend the winter in northwestern Illinois near Galena, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Nobody messes with a golden eagle,” said Bob Russell, wildlife biologist for the federal agency. “They are better fliers than bald eagles. They’re magnificent birds. They can soar effortlessly with just a little updraft. They circle slowly, big, wide circles a couple of hundred feet across.”

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