Band confirms dead eagle as 1 of Alaska's oldest

Tuesday April. 12, 2011

By: The Associated Press

Date: Monday Feb. 14, 2011 3:59 AM PT



ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A Kodiak Island bald eagle survived 25 years of Alaska hazards but met an unfortunate fate last month on the crossbar of a utility pole: electrocution.

A band attached to its leg showed the bird to be the second-oldest bald eagle documented in Alaska and one of the oldest in the country.

"It would be, based on the bird-banding record that I've seen, one of the top 10 oldest birds ever recorded," said Robin Corcoran, a wildlife biologist from the Kodiak Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The eagle's death was first reported by the Kodiak Daily Mirror.


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This Jan. 24, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service shows a female eagle who died after being electrocuted in Kodiak, Alaska. (AP Photo/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Robin Corcoran


The death was of high interest to raptor biologists, who have no other way besides recovered bands to confirm the age of mature wild eagles.

"Once they reach that full adult stage -- white head, brown body, white tail -- you don't have any idea how old they are," said Steve Lewis, coordinator of raptor management for the Alaska region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The oldest eagle documented in the country was a 32-year-old bird from Maine. Alaska's oldest recorded eagle was a 28-year-old from the Chilkat Valley outside Haines. Lewis suspects most eagles don't approach three decades but proving that with leg bands can be haphazard.

"Banding is one of these things, you put a lot of effort into it and you get little return, but the returns you get are really interesting," he said.

The odds of recovering a band go up around communities such as Kodiak. The city is on the island of the same name, the second largest in the U.S. The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge covers one-third of the island and has a resident population of 2,500 birds, but the city is a drawing card for other eagles.

Hundreds from mainland Alaska gather there each winter when lakes and streams freeze up. Eagles are opportunistic eaters, grabbing fish and small mammals, but America's national bird is not above Dumpster-diving or feasting on other tidbits from humans.



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