Bath police Officer Brett McIntire holds a juvenile bald eagle he rescued near the Androscoggin River Tuesday. Courtesy of Bath police

An apparently sick or injured bald eagle was rescued by Bath police Tuesday afternoon.

The juvenile male eagle, estimated to be about 8 weeks old, was found on the shore by the Androscoggin River at the end of Bayshore Road in the northern part of the city. Officer Brett McIntire and Animal Control Officer James McKnight corralled the bird and put it in a kennel container. Volunteers with the Avian Haven bird rehabilitation center in Freedom then took it for treatment.

Avian Haven Operations Manager Lauren Young said the eagle was dehydrated, underweight and lethargic. It’s possible it fell from its nest and became separated from its parents, she said.

“He’s at that awkward stage of life where he’s supposed to be out of the nest and he’s not sure how to fly yet,” Young said.

Juvenile bald eagles have brown feathers and a black beak; it’s not until they are about 5 years old that they develop their signature white head feathers and bright-yellow beak.

The eagle was resting Wednesday and the center plans to perform tests on it Thursday, including measuring if it has lead in its blood. Lead poisoning is the biggest threat to bald eagles in Maine, according to Erynn Call, the state raptor specialist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. She said eagles can die from ingesting lead ammunition fragments as small as a grain of rice found in prey that have been shot by hunters. The eagles can also get poisoned by eating fish that have ingested lead tackle.


In 2020, five bald eagles rescued in Maine were euthanized due to lead poisoning, sparking a campaign by state wildlife officials urging hunters to switch to copper ammunition. In 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an upcoming ban on lead ammunition at several national wildlife refuges, including the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells.

Last month, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law that will prohibit some lead tackle, primarily designed to protect loons.

The last state survey of the bald eagle population in Maine in 2018 found there were more than 750 breeding pairs. The bird was nearly wiped out in the state in the 1960s by a combination of habitat loss, illegal hunting and use of the DDT insecticide, which caused eggs to develop weak shells that often broke. In 1967, there were only 21 breeding pairs in Maine, according to Call.

The bald eagle population recovered in the ensuing decades after DDT was banned by the federal government in 1972 and the state worked to preserve the bird’s habitat. The eagle was removed from the state’s endangered/threatened list in 2009 after 31 years.

Bald eagles typically nest near large bodies of water, like the Androscoggin River where Bath police found the juvenile eagle, so they can hunt for fish.

Young said Avian Haven, the largest bird rescue organization in New England, currently has nine bald eagles in its care, including seven juveniles that fell out of their nests and an adult that was likely hit by a car.

“Our goal is to get them back out in the wild,” Young said. “That’s where they belong. That’s where they do best, and that’s our mission here.”

The nonprofit organization last year took in about 3,300 birds and 77 turtles; the only wildlife it treats. Founded in 1999 by Marc Payne and Diane Winn, it relies on donations and grants. About 250 volunteers drive injured or sick birds and turtles to the center for treatment, including two who picked up the eagle found in Bath.

“Our volunteers are absolutely amazing,” Young said. “We couldn’t do what we do without support from the public.”

Call said it’s common for juvenile bald eagles to leave their nest and end up on the ground, where their parents will continue to feed them. She said people should keep their distance, but if it appears an eagle is in obvious distress, they should contact Avian Haven.

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