Aerial courting goes awry for bald eagles

Two bald eagles crash into the ground leaving one dead and the other seriously injured after misjudging the distance during what experts believe was a mating ritual.

Andrea Gusty / KTVA Channel 11 News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska—It's a case of aerial courting gone awry that has one Anchorage facility helping an injured bald eagle recover.

The Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage works to help 800 injured birds recover each year—about 50 of those are eagles.

Usually when an injured animal comes to the center, workers must piece together what they think happened based on the injuries.

The case of this particular bald eagle is so unique in that experts know what happened and are able to use that information to help her recover.

The female eagle's ordeal began a few days ago in Valdez in what experts believe to be a mating ritual.

During their peculiar courtship, male and female eagles will lock talons mid-air as they both spiral towards the ground.

In this particular case, "they misjudged the distance to the ground and crashed. One was dead at the scene and the other one was really embedded in the snow,” said Cindy Palmatier Director of Avian Care.

The surviving female was transported to a vet, then to Bird TLC in Anchorage and is now on the long road to recovery.

"The one thing that we are concerned about is when she hit and went into the snow, the wings were pulled this direction really really hard as she broke through the crust, so we are definitely concerned about shoulder damage and the ability to carry the wings appropriately,” said Palmatier.

I don't feel anything broken and the vet in Valdez didn't feel anything broken, but she is definitely not holding them as well as she could.”

Palmatier and her staff will continue to monitor the eagle for head trauma and ligament damage in her wing.

If she can be released back into the wild, experts want to bring the eagle home to Valdez where she will likely find a new mate.

Otherwise, the eagle will spend the rest of her life in a zoo or educational center.

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“I'm pretty confident she'll live now. But, releasable or not…I don't know yet,” said Palmatier.

Experts will decide what her future will be as the eagle recovers over the next couple of weeks.

1st 2 photos courtesy of Robert Benda, Valdez, AK
2nd 2 photo's Dave Dorsey / Bird TLC