Three Santa Catalina Island Eagle Chicks Get Their Wing-Bling

Biologists made the steep hike Monday from Avalon to the nest of Wray, Superman and their three chicks

Three eagle chicks on Santa Catalina Island received a visit Monday from researchers.

Biologists made the hike to the eagles' nest Monday to fit them with ID tags. It's part of an effort to better document the progress of the eagle restoration program.

Steffani Jijon,  one of the two Institute for Wildlife Studies biologists who made the hike up to the nest said that this was the "most exciting and stressful time" for scientists. This was the first time they actually handled these eaglets and while they had good intentions -- the eagle parents were not so happy about the intrusion.

Jijon said Wray and Superman (parents to these eaglets) are very defensive.  The scientist wear helmets and long sleeves to protect themselves from "dive bombing" adult eagles. 

Scroll down to watch video of the process that was captured on webcam by Institute for Wildlife Studies moderator Jackie Kolves. In the webcam video what you are seeing is the scientists placing each of the birds in a bag so they can carry them to safer more solid ground to do the beak and talon measurements, tagging and draw blood.  

"There were some harrowing moments," IWS moderator Mary Osteen said in an e-mail. "When the biologists were finally in the nest, they discovered that one of the three eagle chicks perched precariously on the 'crib rails' to the nest (sticks) and viewers held their breath as Dr. (Peter) Sharpe moved ever so carefully to grab that chick first, so the others would not knock it out."

The bands include a leg band ID required by federal law. The eaglets also get a bright colored band --  known as "wing bling" -- with a number.  And their final new accessory is a small backpack attatched with nylon straps to their wings which is used to track the birds over the next two years.


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Jijon says two of the chicks appear to be a male and one appears to be female.  The scientists make this assumption based on size and behavior.  Female eagles tend to be larger and more aggressive  but results from blood tests are needed for confirmation.

Northern Channel Island eagles get blue tags. The Santa Catalina Island eagles get bright orange tags.  
 While the eaglets  are currently tagged with a specific number -  ( K-12, K-13 and K-14) the scientists are hoping to give them acutal names.  (C'mon ... when your dad is called Superman you've got to do better than be known as K-12!!!!)   Names will be chosen based on a raffle of people who make donation to the annual fundraiser for the Institute for Wildlife  Studies.  

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