Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Juvenile birds are particularly vulnerable

29 October, 2015 - 15:30 -- World Land Trust
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Black-and-chestnut Eagle chick at Rio Zunac.
Black-and-chesnut Eagle.

World Land Trust (WLT) is shocked and saddened to report that the juvenile Black-and-chestnut Eagle in Ecuador’s Rio Zunac reserve has been found dead.

The Black-and-chestnut Eagle is one of Ecuador’s rarest and most threatened birds, classified as Endangered by IUCN. WLT has been closely following the progress of a Black-and-chestnut Eagle chick in the Rio Zunac Reserve, which is owned and managed by Fundación EcoMinga, one of WLT’s four conservation partners in Ecuador.

Just a couple of weeks ago the baby Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori) was beginning to explore the outer branches of its nest tree and make its first flights. The most vulnerable stage of a bird’s life is usually at this time: the young bird can’t yet fly properly and it may also be targeted by nest predators.

EcoMinga staff were delighted that their endangered eagle baby had apparently passed that stage, and it was assumed that the eaglet was out of serious danger.

However, last week EcoMinga’s Keepers of the Wild discovered the eaglet’s skeleton on the ground under the nest tree. The news was shocking. There were no human tracks nearby, nor any evidence of any human involvement in the death.

Eagle expert Ruth Muñiz Lopez and her team recently visited the reserve to study the Black-and-chestnut eagle. She responded in writing to news of the death of the chick.

“One of the critical moments in the life of a young eagle is the moment it learns to fly. When the juveniles begin to flap their wings, they rise up above the nest and then fall back down into it. Later, they begin to walk out and explore the branches of their nest tree and nearby trees. Sometimes, those first wing-flaps cause some juveniles to lose their balance if an unexpected gust of wind displaces the bird from the place where it should have landed. If this displacement causes a loss of altitude, depending on the age of the bird, it may be able to regain it. However, others in their attempt to keep flying, can keep losing altitude instead of rising, and end up trapped beneath the canopy. I have never seen the adults help the juveniles in this situation. In the case of the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja), several juveniles died this way, in conjunction with difficult weather such as wind or rain. On two occasions we found such babies alive, very weak, but we were able to get them to recover and re-insert them successfully. If we hadn’t been there permanently, those two babies would surely have died as well.”

ecominga-lrg

Fundación EcoMinga co-founder Lou Jost reported the news on his blog » 

Forests in the Sky

Black-and-chestnut Eagles are one of the species supported by WLT's Forests in the Sky Appeal, aiming to create a biological corridor in the Andes of central Ecuador.

Donate to Forests in the Sky Appeal

Comments

Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

This is undoubtedly a sad turn of events, but it's tough at the top and Eagles have to cope with this kind of mortality as a matter of course.

But at least they made an attempt and it will, let's hope, encourage them to return and have another go when the time is right. And we are all helping by standing firm with our Ecuadorian partners to provide the crucial habitat conditions they can't do without, by ensuring there are still wild places available.

But they do look such beautiful birds - they fully deserve our best efforts to not screw up their world by removing all the forests.

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