The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 20, 2013

Male half of nesting eagle pair feared dead

Reports indicate 'Whitey' was struck by train

One of southern West Virginia’s much-loved and only confirmed pair of nesting American Bald Eagles is suspected dead and the pair’s eggs located at the tip of Brooks Island off W.Va. 20 are in jeopardy.

Wendy Perrone, executive director of Three River Avian Center, said National Park Service Law Enforcement was notified that an Amtrak train hit the eagle Sunday around 10:30 a.m.

Since Sunday, the Park Service, Three Rivers and dedicated volunteers have scouted the track and surrounding area from Brooks Island to Sandstone Falls, but no one has recovered the bird. The male bird, affectionately called Whitey, has also not returned to the nest, leading experts to believe he was killed.

As Perrone monitored the nest Monday, the female called Streaky hunkered down over her eggs and occasionally looked around for her mate while cold rain fell.

Typically, nesting pairs of eagles share the incubation and take turns hunting food, never leaving the eggs unattended. Once the eggs begin to hatch, which could take up to 48 hours to complete, the female stays with the eggs nearly round-the-clock while the male provides the food needed for the family.

Perrone said Streaky is sitting on at least two eggs that could begin to hatch any day now.

Now the Three Rivers Avian Center’s focus will be to provide food for the female eagle and her chicks, if and when they hatch.

Perrone said Three Rivers, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and the New River Gorge National River are working together to come up with a plan of action. For now they will try to keep food easily accessible for her but not on the island itself, as that might draw predators near the nest.

“We have a very difficult task ahead of us. The odds are not with us, but hope and effort are. Keep the good thoughts for Streaky coming,” she said.

The nesting American Eagles first settled on the tip of Brooks Island in 2010 and have laid, hatched and seen fledge a total of five eaglets over two seasons while bringing joy, pride and enthusiasts to the area.

This is their third nest of eggs.

Right now officials are asking visitors to stay away from the River Road side of the nest. Those hoping to view the nest should give the female plenty of space to come down and eat by using the Brooks Overlook along W.Va. 20 to observe.

Those interested in helping support Three Rivers Avian Center as they transport food and monitor the nest can donate money for gas, said Perrone. Donations are tax deductible and can be submitted through the wild bird conservation organization’s website, www.tracwv.org.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com

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