Sunday, August 14, 2011
The IceBird Cometh!
It’s always exciting when a new bird joins the WBS family. And with our most recent addition, there’s A LOT to be excited about.
Meet Thor, our three-month-old Steller’s Sea Eagle.
Thor arrived on June 14 on loan from the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, faithfully chauffeured by our founder, Walter Crawford. He was installed in a spacious chamber in the Sunnen Breeding Barn, behind the scenes, while he learns to get accustomed to people and while he is being trained.
Roger Wallace, our lead eagle trainer, and I have been feeding him three times a day, usually with an audience of a few interns and volunteers. Thor’s favorite food switches back and forth between rat and fish; you never really know which he’s going to prefer. He also enjoys hanging out in the corner of his chamber, on the exact opposite side from the nice box Roger set up for him.
The Steller’s Sea Eagle is native to the eastern coasts of Russia, and winters south into the northernmost island of Japan. This eagle is listed as a vulnerable species, as there are less than 5,000 Steller’s Sea Eagles in the wild population. Habitat loss and lead poisoning are two main reasons for the decline of this majestic animal. Steller’s Sea Eagles are considered by some to be the largest eagle in the world, and if you’re judging by weight you would be absolutely right. Members of this species have weighed in at between 13 and 20 pounds. One record indicates that a female Steller’s Sea Eagle who had gorged herself on salmon came in at a whopping 28 pounds!
In addition to their heavyweight status, Steller’s Sea Eagles also have wingspans of up to eight feet, and have some of the largest and most powerful looking beaks in the raptor world. Of course, Thor still looks like his beak is eight sizes too big for his face, but that large schnoz will make for a striking profile later in his life.
Thor isn’t quite as big as his wild brethren yet, but the little guy still isn’t so little. Even at only three months, he already weighs ten pounds. That’s heavier than some of our fully grown bald eagles! I experienced this girth firsthand when Roger and I put his first set of anklets on last week. I had to hold him still while Roger worked, and let me tell you, there is nothing small about this bird.
Thor hasn’t seemed to figure out how his talons work yet, but like many other sea eagles, he likes to try to bite his way out of his problems. Other than that, he was as calm as could be expected for a bird getting fitted for equipment for the first time. The next step is to glove train him. This probably means I should lift some weights. Thor won’t get any lighter.
All in all, Thor is off to a very good start here at World Bird Sanctuary. He is poised to become very popular with staff, volunteers and visitors alike. We are are happy to have him.
Submitted by Emily Hall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/ETC