An eagle lands - in Bolton Hill

Bird attracts crowd before flying off as quietly as it arrived

August 30, 2006|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

The bald eagle is a grand bird, so it made sense that when a young one landed on a Baltimore sidewalk yesterday afternoon and idled for more than an hour, it chose a block in upscale Bolton Hill.

There, in the 1300 block of Bolton St., the bird was tended to by an entourage of gawking neighbors who watched over their visitor gingerly, snapping photographs, ensuring that it was not bumped by cars being parked and calling the authorities to see about a rescue.

But, after standing still and walking about in a seemingly calm and unperturbed fashion from about 1:30 to 3 p.m., bobbing its head from left to right, the brown-feathered eagle flew away, leaving neighbors and authorities mystified by the bird's visit.

"Why the heck it would stand around on Bolton Street for an hour? Who knows?" said Glenn Therres, associate director of the Wildlife and Heritage Service at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "I don't know if it flew into something and was dazed for a while. It could have been injured, but the fact that it flew away suggests the injury might not have been that severe."

At any given time, there are about 2,000 bald eagles in Maryland, Therres said. The eagles nest along the shores of tidal waters in the region, but the birds - which were upgraded to threatened from endangered in recent years - rarely if ever hang out on city sidewalks, Therres said.

"There are a lot of them floating around, acting like teenagers and juveniles, just kind of looking for a good place to eat or to socialize with other birds their own age," Therres said. "A wooded shoreline on the Potomac or Susquehanna [rivers], but not normally in an urban neighborhood in Baltimore City."

Elwin Guild, an international development consultant and sometime bird watcher who lives on Bolton Street, got a call from a neighbor and couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the eagle, whose head, yet to turn white, suggested that it was less than 3 years old.

"Just amazing," Guild said after cross-referencing the eagle with a picture of the national symbol in a bird book by naturalist Roger Tory Peterson. "It was pretty bizarre, I think. And pretty wonderful."

Guild surmised, at first, that the bird was sick or injured. It had tried to take off a couple of times. "We just wanted to protect it so it didn't get hit by a car or killed by a dog," he said.

He dashed up three flights of stairs to call the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the ASPCA and the National Audubon Society, hoping that someone would come and check on the bird.

David Curson, director of bird conservation for the Maryland and District of Columbia branch of the National Audubon Society, said the bird might have eaten a large catch of fish and was too stuffed and lazy to move.

"It's difficult to explain, but one possibility is, it may have eaten a large meal," Curson said. "Sometimes, when a bird like that eats a large meal like that it gets weighed down. But without knowing all the facts and not having seen the bird myself, it's difficult to be sure."

Therres had planned to dispatch a team to Bolton Hill to possibly retrieve the bird, but while he was on the phone with a resident, the eagle flew away.

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