Kodiak bird biologist releases recovered eagle at refuge headquarters

Bird biologist Robin Corcoran at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters at Buskin River. (Photo by Kayla Desroches/KMXT)
Bird biologist Robin Corcoran at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters at Buskin River. (Photo by Kayla Desroches/KMXT)

Kodiak is full of eagles, especially in January and February, and one rejoined the local population after a brief stay at the Eagle Inn, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service keeps recuperating birds.

At the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters at the Buskin River, bird biologist Robin Corcoran carries a large crate out into the sunlight.

“He was a bit of a fighter, which the younger birds are,” she said.

Corcoran picked the bird up at Trident Seafoods, where many eagles hang around hoping for scraps.

He’d gotten pinned under the cannery’s tanks. She explains he was cold and wet, which can lead to its own set of problems for eagles.

“They preen a lot. They have a preen gland, and they put oil on their feathers to keep it waterproof, and if they lose that ability – if for some reason they’re coated in oil or fish guts or any substance that’s gonna mat down their feathers and cause them to lose that waterproofing, then they stand the chance of getting really wet and going hypothermic pretty quickly.”

The bird stayed at the Eagle Inn overnight to warm up and dry down.

Corcoran walks with the crate to a hill just behind the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters.

There, she opens the door and the eagle flies away into a nearby tree.

Corcoran does releases like this one a couple times a year, and they also fly some eagles to the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage.

Corcoran has a lot of practice fetching birds that sustain injures or just need to be isolated.

She usually comes at them with a towel or blanket.

“You can put it over their head and then just grab their legs, and they’re not that hard. There’s a real fight or flight response, so they’ll try to get away from you first, and then once they realize they can’t, they roll over on their back and they just put their talons up, and they face you with what they’re gonna fight you with,” she said. “It’s always a little nerve-wracking. My adrenaline’s always a little bit high because each eagle capture’s a little bit different.”

Eagles love fish, and Corcoran said they run into a lot of trouble scavenging.

“We’ll get up to five or six eagle calls a week,” she said. “Most of it has to do with the canneries and the fishing boats, but there’s still issues with electrocutions. Birds get hit by cars quite a lot downtown.”

That’s one consequence of the public interacting with the eagles.

Corcoran said feeding them can lead to them into traffic.

There’s also the risk of forcing a bird to dive into the water in an attempt to escape, which could lead to its death if it’s already wet or dirty.

KMXT - Kodiak

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