A battered bald eagle found in a St. Petersburg back yard last month took flight from Ahhochee Hill on Saturday morning. The adult male eagle was launched from the arm of Dave Moore, executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, after spending three weeks at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland.
Charles Lee, advocacy director for Audubon, said the organization offered the honors to Moore because Swiftmud has been an important partner in conservation efforts.
The eagle's injuries could have been the result of a car's bumper or talon-to-talon combat, said Lynda White, coordinator for Audubon's Eagle Watch program. Either way, the bird was in rough shape when it was recovered a few days before Thanksgiving by the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary behind a home on 62nd Avenue S.
It didn't take long, though, for the eagle to bounce back from a fractured shoulder and beak, White said. Shoulder injuries often require surgery and a long recuperation period, White said. Not this time.
"This guy, he just amazed us all," White said. "It's been less than a month, and he's flying like a champ."
While rehabilitation experts like to release birds in the same place they were found, that wouldn't have been a good idea in this case, White said. It's the middle of nesting season, when eagles are at their most territorial, and this adult male is not part of a breeding pair.
"So if we release him back there, he's going to get himself beat up," White said.
So they decided Ahhochee Hill, a 270-acre expanse of Audubon-owned pasture and forest land north of Brooksville that has served as the launching site for other rehabilitated eagles, would be a better option. Fewer eagle nests in Hernando County make for a smaller chance of an ugly run-in, White said.
Like cats, eagles have a way of finding their way home again, so the bird might have made it back to St. Petersburg by Saturday afternoon, she said.
"But maybe he'll decide Hernando County's a pretty nice place to hang out."
Tony Marrero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.