On spring days, eagles soar high over the hills of Solebury seeking food for their chicks.
But one Bald Eagle met a devastating fate Sunday while foraging for his tiny eaglet that was nesting in a tree above Pidcock Creek Road.
The carrion-eating male eagle contracted lead poisoning either from ingesting lead or eating prey killed by lead bullets, said Leah Stallings, executive director of the Aark Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center in Chalfont.
Lead stays in an animal’s system, slowly poisoning it and making it unable to stand, move or eat — thus, eventually killing the animal, she said.
It was Pidcock Creek Road neighbors on Sunday who came to the rescue of the dying bird they said couldn’t even stand or lift its head.
It was a community rescue effort. The neighbors called Solebury police Sgt. Kevin Edwards and Officer Anthony Viruet-Melendez, who took the eagle to the Chalfont Aark center, which in turn got it to the Radnor Veterinary Hospital’s Dr. Len Donato.
Then it was back to Aark, which has ordered medication (EDTA Calcium) at a cost of almost $400, according to Stallings, from a New Jersey pharmacy. The medication will be given to the eagle over a schedule for a few weeks.
“Once he is finished with his medications, he will be moved to our eagle enclosure for flight training,” she said. And then, when fully recovered, “he will be returned to the nest site and reunited with the family,”
Lead poisoning is a common problem with birds of prey all over the United States, Stallings said. It is caused by ingesting shotgun pellets, bullet fragments and fishing sinkers made from lead.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has launched a widespread initiative to encourage hunters and fishermen to use alternatives to lead such as copper or steel, she added, noting that “simple change in behavior could make a huge difference to the wildlife of Pennsylvania.”
As for the home front situation, neighbors say the female eagle is still at the nest taking care of her little one — as mothers do.