Sunday, August 7, 2011

Harpy Eagle Update...

Ya'axché Conservation Trust 
Harpy eagle chick progress report

It has been 10 months since the discovery of a harpy eagle chick in Bladen Nature Reserve, the furthest north that a breeding pair of harpy eagles have ever been confirmed. The harpy chick was then satellite tagged in May by a group including the bird team from Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE). The team was led by Angel Muela, a seasoned harpy eagle tagger, and William Garcia (BFREE). Ya’axché rangers Victor Bonilla, Pastor Ayala and protected areas manager Lee Mcloughlin were present in an observational capacity. The whole expedition was filmed by internationally renowned wildlife film maker Richard Foster.

After the tagging BFREE’s bird team noticed that the adult female and male had not returned to the nest to feed or nurture the chick. As a result the chick became malnourished, weak and then after a few failed attempts at flying fell to the forest floor where it risked being attacked by predators and actually had a close run in with a troop of spider monkeys. This situation led to the tough decision of whether or not to intervene in nature. The decision was made to intervene and return the chick to its nest before it was killed on the forest floor. BFREE’s bird team also took the unusual step of providing food, in the form of dead chickens. Eventually, to train the chick to kill, live chickens were introduced to the diet. This continued over two months, throughout which time the parents were still not once observed returning to the nest.

We then received the wonderful news from BFREE that in early July the adult male had been observed with the chick on a tree near to the nest where he was seen feeding the chick and standing watch over the chicks increasingly frequent flying attempts. The bird team withdrew their support for the chick and monitored the situation before being forced to leave the site due to the advent of the famous heavy rains of Toledo’s wet season.
This did not mean that monitoring could not continue. Due to the satellite tag, which had been attached to the back of the chick, the bird team could continue to determine its movements. They were able to confirm that the chick, now a juvenile, had left the site of the nest and moved to a nearby valley where she stayed for 5 days. It seems she is doing well as it is unlikely such movements would be occurring in ill health. It also suggests she is becoming more comfortable and skilled at flying.
This is by no means the end of the story; the chick will depend on the support of her parents for the first TWO years of her life. BFREE are working on GIS mapping to produce interpretive maps to keep the public informed and particularly for use for educational and scientific purposes.




AJ Baxter said...

Great article! Impressive blog! I have added your blog site to my list of interesting Belizean blogs on Picture Belize.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the kind words! I checked out your "Picture Belize" site. Very impressive photos. Wish my skills even approached that level...