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Neighbors consider eagles their own
Last March, a neighborhood in north Mercer Island began witnessing strange activity from the bald eagles living in the area.
Five months later, the female resident eagle, who had lived there since 2004, died.
“We were all so unhappy when this happened,” said Patricia Giuliani, one of the neighbors. “We didn’t understand.”
Giuliani called Sarvey Wildlife Care Center to get more information on what could have caused her death. Kestrel SkyHawk, the education director at Sarvey, called back and agreed to talk to the neighbors about eagles and answer questions.
A date was then set up for the neighbors to meet with SkyHawk. Giuliani said she was glad the neighbors could meet with an eagle expert to compare their stories. Because, she said, they all have different perspectives — literally.
“We all have different views of the nest,” Giuliani said.
Although the eagle nest is technically on the Giulianis’ property, many other neighbors can see it from their yards, and all of them have watched the eagles’ activities over the years.
“The neighbors who live around here — we care a lot about these eagles,” Giuliani said. “We watch them; we talk about them to each other. They’re in our lives a lot.”
This is why SkyHawk and another worker at Sarvey Wildlife, Margie Thorngren, came all the way from their center in Arlington to talk to the Mercer Island neighbors.
“This is worth it,” SkyHawk said. “If I see that there are a lot of people who have a good heart and are really interested in and really care about the animals in their neighborhood, then it’s worth it to me to come out here.”
Although SkyHawk was not specifically familiar with the eagles living in north Mercer Island, she has a lot of experience with eagles and came prepared with books-in-hand to answer questions. After a quick presentation on how to assist wild animals, SkyHawk listened as the neighbors described what they had witnessed over the past few months.
Alex Radulovic was the first neighbor to see a disruption with the birds. He recalled the day last March when he arrived home from work.
“I came toward the driveway and there were two of them on the ground, pretty obviously staring each other down,” Radulovic said. “Nobody was moving. One had the other one backed into a corner.”
He called a government agency and asked what to do. Because of the season, he was told they were probably just fighting over territory and to pull his car up his driveway to see if they’d go away. Radulovic did, and one of the birds flew away, “But the other one didn’t want to, and actually came up to the car to see what was going on,” he said.
The second bird eventually flew off as well, and afterward Radulovic noticed a few drops of blood, he said.
A couple months passed. Then one day David Giuliani, noticed seven or eight unfamiliar, immature eagles flying around the area. This was about a month before the female resident eagle’s death.
An “immature” eagle is a young eagle. In the case of bald eagles, “immature eagles are brown,” SkyHawk said. “It takes four or five years for them to get their white head and tail.”
The day before the resident eagle died, neighbor BJ Holtgrewe witnessed a violent scene: “There was a huge cat fight going on with what was probably this [the female resident] eagle and another one that was mostly brown,” he said. “They were really going at it.”
The next day, a 6-year-old neighbor boy saw the resident eagle down by the water.
“He probably put it best when he wondered aloud to his dad, ‘Is that thing real?’” Holtgrewe said. “She was sitting down by the water not moving at all.”
Sarvey Wildlife Center was called and someone came out and took the eagle to the center. They found two wounds — a fresh gash on her left wrist, and an older wound on her right leg that had not healed — a previous injury. The extent of her injuries was so great that she had to be put down.
Although the Mercer Island neighbors are saddened by the loss of their longtime female resident eagle, after two weeks of mourning, the male resident eagle seems to be all right.
“He’s already re-partnered,” Jennifer Bolen, another neighbor, said. “I saw him with a juvenile, just-becoming-mature female last week, presenting her with a branch.”
SkyHawk said she must have just reached maturity because she had seen an earlier photo of the eagle.
“She looked a little young to me!” Bolen added.
The neighbors erupted into laughter.
“We just feel very involved in their lives,” Giuliani said. “We consider them our eagles.”
Thorngren said she came along with SkyHawk just “to see a community that is so involved with their wildlife — all these people who are passionate about their eagles.”
Sarvey Wildlife Care Center is a nonprofit organization. For more information, visit www.sarveywildlife.org.
Lauren DiRe is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.