MANATEE -- An American bald eagle was released Wednesday after undergoing 10 weeks of rehabilitation for a fractured wing.
The eagle was discovered at the base of a cell phone tower on Lena Road, near the county landfill, where it had made a nest and was raising a fledgling alongside its mate.
Save Our Seabirds Inc., a local nonprofit organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of both local and migratory seabirds, rescued the bird and brought it back to their facility in western Sarasota.
The eagle was kept under the care of Lee Fox, who founded the organization in 1990 and has served as executive director ever since.
Fox was unsure of the cause of the injury but believed it may have come from
a collision with one of the many metal bars at the top of the phone tower.
"She's been quite a handful. We have handled about 10 eagles and she's by far the feistiest one we've dealt with." Fox said.
The eagle lived up to this reputation right up until its release, jumping and squirming inside her crate and even taking some considerable cajoling before finally exiting the cage and taking flight across the nearby cow pasture, hovering low until reaching the tree line and disappearing.
"I was really hoping to see her fly higher, but altogether she did well. If it weren't for her need to migrate north immediately, I would have liked to have kept her a little longer to fatten her up.
"I think she'll be fine. She's certainly got the tenacity." Fox said.
Fox also explained that eagles are migratory birds, and that she would not be surprised to see the eagle return to her nest here in Manatee next year.
Eagles like this one are not uncommon in coastal areas, in fact the Fish and Wildlife Service recently listed Florida as holding an estimated 1,133 breeding pairs of bald eagles, the highest count within the contiguous United States.
SOS urges anyone who happens to find an injured bird to call their offices immediately at 941-388-3010.
They have a wealth of information available on their website (www.saveourseabirds.org) addressing how to help local seabirds, including a "Don't Cut the Line!" program for the unlucky fisherman who find themselves with a bird at the end of their fishing line.
The site also features a free downloadable book concerning how to rescue and care for baby birds.