One of the newest animals at Green Chimneys is a golden eagle, and although he is a rare find, staff members hope his visit will be a short one.
After falling from the sky and landing—with a fractured skull—in a Pawling neighborhood in mid-February, the 2-year-old raptor is recuperating. Just last week, he took a big step toward full recovery: he spread his wings in a special flying cage at the facility.
"I'm very thrilled with his progress," Paul Kupchok, wildlife rehabilitator at Green Chimneys, said recently.
The injury initially left the bird dazed and weak. Kupchok, who was called to the scene where more than two dozen people gathered that Sunday afternoon, was stunned when the eagle did not resist being place in a carrier.
"I'm realizing he's zonked out, and he must be very injured to let me do that so easily," he recalled.
A visit to Brewster Veterinary Hospital revealed the fracture, which Kupchok believes was the result of an in-air fight between the golden eagle and a bald eagle, or two.
"My take is this established pair of bald eagles, now protecting their area because they are about to lay eggs, saw this golden eagle in their territory," he said, adding that opinions on sizes of the species vary. In this case, the golden eagle was small, weighing in at 5 and a half pounds. The average weight range for goldens is between 5 and 13, according to Kupchok.
The fight likely led to the bird's fall, during which he crashed down onto a roof, then slid and dropped to the ground.
From where Dan DeGloria was watching, the object that hit the earth looked like a garbage bag at first. But then the seventh-grader—who was doing his homework and had come downstairs to ask his mother a question—saw wings open, and the eagle tried to glide, but "didn't get very far."
He advised his mom of the situation and told her she may want to call "Animal Kingdom or some animal people" before he ran out of the house. Soon, everyone else on the street did the same.
"I kind of was amazed, actually, and I didn't know really what to say," DeGloria said. "It was an eagle on our neighbor's lawn."
Pawling resident Mike Colombo and his family were some of the folks who gathered around. They watched the bird lay in the snow while the group waited for the Kupchok.
"Everybody thought it was a bald eagle because we have so many around here," he said.
That's what the group told Kupchok, who was hesitant to believe that because he receives many calls from folk who have mistaken another type of bird for a bald eagle. The fact that it was a golden eagle—which come through the area in "very small numbers" in the fall, and typically do not stay through the winter, Kupchok explained—was even more surprising.
Since then, the raptor has been resting. Dr. John Wilson watched him for five days at the animal hospital, and then Green Chimneys took over. The bird was placed in a private enclosure, where his appetite improved and he made small gains, including moving from a log to a perch five feet in the air.
Kupchok is confident that a full recovery is possible. It would take between one and a half and two months. If for some reason the bird was unfit to reenter the wild, because of a long-lasting brain injury, the facility is prepared to give the golden eagle a home, as it does for 51 other birds. One of them is a bald eagle with part of a wing missing.
"Life was hard for him," Kupchok said of the golden eagle. "Life is hard for all birds of prey in the first couple of years."