She Couldn't Wait To Get Out Of There ... Because Someone Was Waiting For Her
When she was found on a forest floor in Nova Scotia last December, she didn't have the strength to stretch her wings, or even lift her head. But this bald eagle had to get better in a hurry because love was, literally, in the air.
The Dodo wrote about this bald eagle's spectacular return to the skies back in January. But it turns out her story didn't end with her recovery, but with her soaring off into the sunset with the eagle that waited for her to get better.
The bird's name is Birdzilla, the biggest eagle staff at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre had ever seen. Somewhere near the refuge was another eagle, her lifelong mate.
And not even an acute bout of lead poisoning could come between them.
But first, Birdzilla had to find her wings again.
"She was very weak. She couldn't hold her head up. She could barely stand," Murdo Messer, co-founder of the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, tells The Dodo.
Birdzilla was dehydrated and teeming with lice, but what really plagued this bird went right down to her very bones.
She was suffering from lead poisoning, likely the result of eating carcasses that had been contaminated with fragmented lead ammunition.
Because her body temperature was so cold, Birdzilla almost immediately had to be placed under a heat lamp.
Staff had never seen a bird so weak. Birdzilla didn't have to be held down on the X-ray table. She just lay there on her back, completely sapped of strength.
Once they confirmed she had lead poisoning, Birdzilla's treatment began - a process called chelation, in which regular injections are administered to clear the bird's mineral-tainted blood.
The best way to tell she was getting better by the day? She was getting angry.
"After two days, she was starting to come around," Messer says. "And in four days, she was a very angry bald eagle and not happy at being held or looked after."
Exactly what Messer likes to see.
"If they're angry, that's a good sign. It means they have a will to live. This is their natural instinct."
She didn't know it at the time, but Messer was her knight in the most unusual suit of armor.
Well-acquainted with the ornery nature of eagles, he wore heavy coveralls, steel-toed shoes and gauntlets with kevlar, along with a face shield and throat protector, just in case.
"After four days, she wanted nothing to do with me, but we had to keep up the treatment," Messer explains.
Eventually, Birdzilla was ready to move into a towering enclosure where she could stretch her wings.
Her blood tests were coming back promising. Lead levels were down. Birdzilla was getting nice and angry.
She wanted out. Yesterday.
And there may have been a reason for that. It was mating season for eagles. And somewhere out there, her partner was waiting.
"She would have had a partner that was waiting around for her to come back," Messer says. "I'm not sure how long they would wait before they found someone else. But he was definitely there."
At last, her strength returned - and now that she was suitably outraged at her captivity, it was time to return Birdzilla to the skies.
She was driven to Pictou County, to the site where she was first found.
Birdzilla took one bounce from her cage, spread her wings and took flight.
With wing beats strong and confident, she made her way to a nearby tree, where Messer suspected she had a nest.
Then everyone on the ground watched, a little alarmed, as another eagle appeared - and dive-bombed Birdzilla.
"I was a little bit tense when we saw that bird not behaving in a friendly manner," Messer says. "But we were pretty confident that Birdzilla - being that it was her territory and how big she was - that she'd probably be okay."
The pair engaged in a brief struggle - a single diving pass by the unknown assailant - before Birdzilla drove him away.
She was left hanging upside down for a few anxious moments in the tree.
And then, another eagle arrived. The Eagle.
"He was soaring overhead for a little bit before he came down," Messer recalls. "We could hear them calling to each other. They were definitely vocalizing."
It was her mate.
He landed in a tree nearby.
They called loudly to each other.
Birdzilla left her perch to join him.
They sat together on that branch for nearly an hour, chatting incessantly.
Then they both took flight.
Birdzilla and her mate are still seen today circling those skies.
Flying higher than ... well ... eagles.
"They've been seen since in that tree and other trees on the neighborhood," Messer notes. "That's where they hang out. There's a river there. There's lots of food. They have a nest nearby."
Isn't eagle love grand? Want to support the passionate work to save countless eagles and other wildlife at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre? Consider making a donation here.