Bald eagle saved by bird group’s ‘brilliant’ rescue in Waukegan

Jim Tibensky was trying to rescue a bald eagle that was stranded on a expanse of ice in Waukegan Harbor when he realized he had to change his plan.

Tibensky had kayaked halfway down the harbor, towed another kayak, and intended to put the eagle in and drag it back to shore.

But it turns out the second kayak wasn’t needed, said Annette Prince, director of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors.

As Tibensky approached the eagle, he noticed that the wave created by his kayak was pushing the chunk of ice on which the eagle was sitting. As Tibensky paddled closer, the kayak itself was able to push the ice.

“He had a brilliant strategy for realizing that this bird was swimming on a piece of ice and instead of grabbing it if it was going to push the little iceberg it was sitting on further towards the shore where I was I was able to reach down and pull it up with a net,” Prince said.

That’s exactly what happened. After Tibensky slowly paddled and pushed the eagle ashore, Prince lifted it out of the harbor and placed it in a cage.

Her group, which operates a 24-hour bird rescue hotline, received a call around 10:30 a.m. Sunday. A group of bird watchers at the port said the bald eagle was stuck on ice, looking lethargic and unable to stand up straight.

After taking it in, they took the eagle to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn, where it underwent blood testing and treatment. The tests showed symptoms consistent with rodent poisoning, most likely prey.

Annette Prince of the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors holds a bald eagle that was rescued from Waukegan Harbor on Sunday January 1st.

Annette Prince of the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors holds a bald eagle that was rescued from Waukegan Harbor on Sunday.

But since arriving at the wildlife center, the eagle quickly warmed up and gained some energy.

“They treated him and that night he ate all the food that they put in his cage,” Prince said. “He was actively eating, sitting up, making a big mess in his cage, ripping up the towels and everything so he could have some cum inside him.”

Although the eagle is still not fully alert, the rapid improvement in its condition makes the non-profit bird rescue group optimistic of a successful recovery.

The eagle is about three years old. The wildlife center couldn’t tell if it was male or female because it is significantly underweight, Prince said. Bald eagles develop a full white head around five years of age.

It was the first rescue of 2023 for the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, which rescued more than 5,000 birds across Chicago and the suburbs last year.

Coincidentally, last year’s first rescue also took place on New Year’s Day, also by a bald eagle – and that eagle had also ingested rat poison. It was found on the side of a road in Brookfield.

“This one has made a full recovery and has been released, so let’s all hope the same thing will happen to this bird,” Prince said Monday

And of the countless rescues the group has performed over its 20 years of existence, Prince said Sunday’s rescue was “one of the most amazing rescues that I think we’ve pulled off.”

“It went smoothly, the bird cooperated, we contained it safely and it has a good chance of surviving,” she said. “These are all really positive things for the start of the year.”

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