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Mooseheart’s two rescued eaglets nearly ready to return to the wild

The Mooseheart bald eaglets are seen their temporary outdoor enclosure Barrington-based Flint Creek Wildlife RehabilitatiJune 6. The pair have developed

The Mooseheart bald eaglets are seen in their temporary outdoor enclosure at the Barrington-based Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation on June 6. The pair have developed enough that their release is being planned. | Courtesy~Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilita

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Updated: November 10, 2011 10:55AM

After a storybook of tales, the eaglets rescued from the Mooseheart grounds are getting ready to take flight back into the wild.

“They are magnificent and in perfect condition — we are looking forward to their release,” said Dawn Keller, executive director and founder of Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.

The eaglets had a near-death experience over the Memorial Day weekend when strong winds and heavy rain knocked the eagle family’s nest 85 feet to the base of a pine tree on the Mooseheart grounds, which a pair of adult eagles have called home over the last few years. The eaglets were about 7 weeks old at the time.

Wildlife rehabbers originally built a man-made nest filled with some of the original nesting material and hoisted it 65 feet into the tree, then placed the young birds inside, with hopes the parents would resume care of their offspring.

But a check of the eaglets a couple of days later revealed that the parents, for reasons unknown, did not maintain their parental duties and feed them.

The eaglets — found dehydrated and in a weakened condition — were taken to the Barrington-based wildlife center, where they were rehydrated and hand-fed. Within a couple of days, they were feeding on their own.

“They have been outside and with a surrogate injured bald eagle helping to raise them,” Keller said. “They are a healthy weight, flying great, and their feathers are perfect.”

The surrogate, named Aquila, serves as a role model for the young eagles, Keller said.

“Anytime we have an orphan, we employ the use of surrogates whenever possible. It’s one of the things we do to make sure they stay wild,” Keller said.

Keller said the eaglets have been outside in progressively larger flight chambers since their arrival.

The wildlife center is planning a public release date in Starved Rock State Park overlooking the Illinois River near Utica, possibly in late October or early November.

Keller said they consulted with other wildlife rehabbers in other parts of the country where there are larger populations of eagles, about where the eagles should be released.

“One of the important criteria is the healthy winter population of eagles in the Starved Rock area,” Keller said.

Keller said they decided to make it a public release because seeing two eaglets released into the wild for many will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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