On the first day of 2018, at approximately 9 a.m., I traveled from our home in Fountain to the Fillmore County Journal office in Preston. It was a frigid morning with the combination of wind chill and temperature dipping down around negative 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just after passing over Watson Creek, on the right (west) side of Highway 52, I saw a large dead bird resting on the shoulder of the road. As I glanced down at this large brown-feathered creature, it appeared to be an eagle.
I had some things to take care of at the office, so I continued on my way. After I arrived at the office, I kept thinking about that bird. Was it an eagle? If it was an eagle, then the DNR needed to be notified.
So, as I was driving back home from Preston, I pulled alongside the road and stepped out of my vehicle to take a closer look. It appeared to be either an eagle or a hawk. So I snapped a few photos with plans of sending them to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minn., for confirmation.
After I hopped back into my vehicle, I called the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department to let them know that they may want to inform the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources of a possible dead eagle on the side of the road on Highway 52 north of Preston. The dispatcher said he’d notify the DNR. I’m sure many of our readers know that it is has been illegal since 1940 to “take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit.” This is in accordance with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Violations of such Act carry fines from $5,000 to more than $250,000 along with prison time. So, if you see a dead eagle, don’t touch it. Call the local authorities to inform the the DNR.
Following my discovery, I did follow-up with an e-mail to the National Eagle Center including photos of the supposed eagle, and here’s what they said in an e-mail, “Thank you for your concern. It is difficult to tell from the pictures; but we feel it is probably a hawk.”
I have shown this picture to other locals, and some people think it is a hawk while others think it could either be a golden eagle or an adolescent bald eagle. Bald eagles are not born with the white head, neck, and tail we often associate with their bold beauty. They often start out with brown feathers and gain their striking white features with maturity.
It’s not uncommon to see roadkill all over this lush and lively countryside, including deer, raccoons, turkeys, pheasants, and even those cute and cuddly possum.
But, it’s not common to see an eagle or a hawk, a predator atop the food chain of this region, dead and frozen alongside the road. While I may never know what happened to this big bird, it’s moments like this that make me dig a little deeper to better understand the nature that surrounds us.
Like how big are eagles compared to hawks? What is the difference in wingspan, size, weight, and colors? I began searching the Internet for more answers and particularly pictures. Another great resource I’ve observed in this area is the Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center on the outskirts of Lanesboro. I chaperoned my daughter’s Fillmore Central class trip in late October, and the staff at Eagle Bluff does a wonderful job of helping visitors explore and learn about nature.
We live in quite a wondrous land. It’s important to stop and observe our habitat.