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Kirkland Eaglet Dies After Fall

One of the two eaglets hatched this year in Heritage Park died Monday, July 29, in a fall.

Bald Eaglet at Heritage Park on July 19, 2013, by Mick ThompsonEditor's Note:

Several days after the incident described here, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife determined that the deceased bird was an older juvenile and not one of this year's young. An eyewitness told the Seattle Times that the accident occurred not in the nest tree, but elsewhere in the park, when a bough bent and the juvenile fell head first. The following material is as originally published.


The youngster, thought to be about 14 weeks old, was perched on a branch and flapping its wings when the branch broke. The bird tumbled, striking several branches and coming to rest momentarily on a lower limb before falling to the ground.

Neck Injury Possible

Two nearby residents happened to be in the park and watching the eaglets when the accident occurred at about 6:30 in the morning. They ran to the spot where the eaglet fell and saw the bird raise its head and take a breath. Then its head fell back and it stopped breathing. The eaglet's neck appeared to be injured.

The observers called 9-1-1 and recounted the incident to Kirkland police officer Brandon Hardesty at the scene. His account was later relayed to us by Kirkland Police Department spokesman Lt. John Haslip. Officer Hardesty reported that the eaglet appeared to him to have died, possibly from a neck injury.

Photo: One of the two Heritage Park Bald Eagle fledglings on the day after first flight. Photo by Mick Thompson.

Fledged Less Than Two Weeks

Both of the two eaglets were first seen to fly 11 days before the accident, on July 18. During the week between their fledging and the fatal fall, they appeared to be strong in flight and still a little clumsy upon landing.

Friends of Eastside Audubon wrote on our Facebook page that they'd seen both young eagles flying the day before the accident.

It's unknown whether the eaglet that fell is the one that has seemed to be younger and, during the birds' earlier weeks, less robust. We hope to be able to tell by comparing early photos with those of the surviving bird, but that effort may take some time. If you have insight, please post your observations to the Eastside Audubon Facebook page.

Kirkland Police and Parks Did Right

After seeing the eaglet on the ground, Officer Hardesty alerted nearby city parks workers. The Kirkland Parks Department, following establish procedures, contacted the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, whose agents came and took away the remains to make an official determination as to the cause of death.

Jason Filan, operations manager for Kirkland parks, said the USDFW told him that in a case of accidental death a deceased eagle's feathers are typically given to an Indian tribe for traditional use.


Previous stories

The Eaglets Have Landed (And Before That, They Flew)

Heritage Park Eaglets Making Progress

Eastside Audubon Applauds Decision to Shift Fireworks Location

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