When Marco Islander Bob Karas’ morning bicycle ride takes him past the nesting pair of bald eagles, he always makes a point of looking for them.
On Friday morning, though, his attention was drawn to a lump on the sidewalk below high power lines, he said.
“I said that can’t be an eagle, but unfortunately it was,” Karas said.
The fledgling, an eagle learning to fly, was one of two young eagles that islanders had been keeping an excited eye on as the birds began to learn to fly and hunt from their home base in an Australian pine tree along Tigertail Court.
The nest is on land, known as Tract K, that the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation leases from the Collier County School District to protect the eagle nest. The foundation is in its second year of an eight-year lease.
“When you lose one, it’s like losing a child,” said the foundation’s Chairman Carl Way. “Everybody will be watching this one (remaining fledgling) much closer.” The parents of the fledgling are continuing to care for the remaining sibling.
Way surmised the bald eagle had flown into the power lines and fell immediately to the ground. The eaglet was seen flying over a canal toward the nest tree just minutes before Karas found it, according to a statement from the Foundation.
Volunteers placed the dead eagle into a crate and delivered it to the wildlife rehabilitation center at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Clinic workers could not feel any broken bones on the eagle, which had blood in its mouth, wildlife rehabilitation specialist Jonee Miller said Friday afternoon.
The Conservancy reported the dead eagle to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and was awaiting further direction from the agencies late Friday afternoon.
The eagle could be sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Eagle Repository near Denver, which provides eagles for Native American religious ceremonies.
Bald eagles were taken off the federal list of endangered species in 2007 but still are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement will investigate the eagle’s death and determine what should happen with the eagle, spokesman Ken Warren said.
Way said that about 40 percent of the fledglings do not survive the first year. That such an incident is not unusual.
The juvenile eagles, young adults, will come back to the nest. If the adult female and male eagle continues nesting the juveniles or young adults will not use the nest. The juvenile eagles will come back to what had been their nest if the adults vacate the nest.
He said the nest is protected for six years after the adults, who currently reside, vacate the nest. Then birds who were born there will often make it their home.
The Eagle Sanctuary provides educational information at the site. There are 50 members in the foundation. There have already been more than 1,00 visitors this year, Way said.
To support the foundation there will be a “Nest Fest” at Bistro Soleil at the Olde Marco Inn, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on April 19 on Marco Island.
There will be a Faux Feather Contest in honor of the bald eagles. Feather attire or accessories encouraged, but not required.
Dinner includes either a New York strip steak or Pork Wellington and cocktails (well drinks) at a happy hour prices. There also will be a 50-50 raffle.
Tickets, $55 each, can be purchased at the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce and Bistro Soleil, or by check payable to MESF, P.O. Box 983, Marco Island, FL 34146 and also be credit card on the foundation’s secure website, www.marcoeaglesanctuaryfoundation.org. For more information call 239-394-9285.
Writers Roger LaLonde and Bill Green contributed to the story.