By Sarah Plummer
For more than 48 hours, one of southern West Virginia’s much-loved and the male bird of the only confirmed pair of nesting American Bald Eagles was feared dead after being struck by a train Sunday.
Founders of the Three Rivers Avian Center, the National Park Service and countless volunteers had cause to rejoice Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. when the group confirmed the male bird, affectionately called Whitey, returned to his partner and a nest with at least two eggs about to hatch.
Wendy Perrone, executive director of Three River Avian Center, said the pair’s behavior indicates the second bird is the missing mate.
She explained the male eagle would not have left his partner for so long of his own volition, particularly at such a crucial time when the pair shares egg incubation and hunting duties.
The experts believe Whitey was hit and stunned by the train, which was traveling at speeds around 50 miles per hour, but miraculously was not killed and returned to his nest after recovering.
Perrone 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 not one feather of the missing bird was found and a group of volunteers watching the nest had also not seen the second eagle.
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.
With Streaky sitting on at least two eggs that could begin to hatch any day now, the Three Rivers Avian Center focused on placing food on the band for the female eagle so should would not have to leave her nest for long.
While Whitey was missing, the eggs’ safety was in jeopardy.
Perrone said Three Rivers and its group of volunteers will continue to monitor the pair and watch for any sign of injury.
They will also continue to leave some food on the River Road side band in case they need to supplement the eagles’ hunting, but at this point Whitey appears able to hunt and bring food back to the nest on his own, 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 bird enthusiasts to the area.
This is their third nest of eggs.
Until experts are sure the bird is fully recovered, visitors should restrict their bird watching to the Brooks Overlook along W.Va. 20 to observe.
Three Rivers Avian Center keeps a close eye on our area’s only confirmed nest of eagles while helping to heal injured birds of prey and spread wild bird conservation awareness through education.
Donations to this non-profit are tax deductible and can be submitted through the wild bird conservation organization’s website, www.tracwv.org.
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