Sam Cook, Forum Communications Co., Published November 08 2010
2nd-oldest eagle traced back to MinnesotaDULUTH, Minn. – On a June day in 1978, Duluth’s David Evans climbed into an eagle’s nest in a tree north of Minong and banded a baby eagle.
Now, 32 years later, that same band has turned up on an adult eagle that apparently was struck and killed by a car north of Two Harbors.
The band confirmed for biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey that the eagle – 32 years and 4 months old – is the second-oldest eagle in the country based on band returns.
The bird was found by a passing motorist on Oct. 6 on the Drummond Grade seven miles northwest of Two Harbors. It was turned in to Bob Kirsch, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager at Two Harbors, on Oct. 7.
The eagle had been banded by Evans on June 18, 1978. Evans, 61, is the lead hawk bander at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth.
Evans is accustomed to getting reports of eagles he banded.
But none as old as this one.
The oldest eagle, based on band returns, was 32 years, 10 months old, said Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the Bird Banding Laboratory at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md. That eagle, banded in Maine in 1977, was found dead in New Brunswick, Canada, on April 5 this year.
One of Evans’ banding partners was Duluth’s Molly Evans, now his wife of 29 years. David Evans banded eagles by climbing trees and banding chicks in their nests. One of those chicks was fitted with band No. 629-03555.
The eagle was found Oct. 6 by Bruce Campbell of Brimson, Kirsch said. Kirsch inspected the area where the eagle was discovered and found a deer carcass along the road.
“(The eagle) was pretty beat up,” Kirsch said. “I’m sort of surmising that it was feeding on the deer and flew up and got smacked by a car. It wasn’t quite as quick at 32 years and 4 months as it had been at 32 years and no months.”
When he discovered the band on the bird, he reported the band number to the Bird Banding Laboratory.
“They asked me to repeat the band number and said there was something strange about it,” Kirsch said.
He was asked to send the band in, which he did. The laboratory has since returned it to Kirsch, confirming the eagle’s age.
The eagle is still in a freezer at DNR offices in Two Harbors, Kirsch said.
Evans banded eagles in Wisconsin until 2007. Band returns have been coming in over the past few years as banded eagles are dying and being recovered.
Peterjohn, at the Bird Banding Laboratory, expects to see more band returns from aging eagles in coming years.
“Given the amount of eagle banding that’s gone on, we’d be expecting to have more older birds reported to us,” Peterjohn said. “A lot of those older birds may still be alive. It shows us what’s the normal expected longest life span of an eagle.
“We’ve got a number of records now between 29 and 32 years. They’re old eagles, but they’re not exceptionally old. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to have one come in at 35 or 36 and blow these records away.”
Sam Cook is a writer for the Duluth News Tribune