When Eagles Need Rescuing

Georgia Wild masthead: Right whale 3370 ("Archipelago") and calf off Little St. Simons Island (DNR/NOAA permit 20556)


- Eagle emergencies

- Awww-some whale video

- Rufous hummers' sorry state

- Watersnake vs. American eel


(Editor's note: We're resending this issue in case you missed it the first time.)

sos for eagles

Eagle on pole; DNR and Macclenny (Fla.) Fire and Rescue staff

Rescuing eagle impaled on pole; DNR and Macclenny (Fla.) Fire and Rescue staff (Special to DNR)

It has been a tough few weeks for bald eagles.

First came the discovery of an injured eagle at Panola Mountain State Park near Stockbridge Dec. 4. Grounded by a damaged wing, apparently from being hit by a car, the bird is being cared for by AWARE Wildlife Center in Stonecrest.

Four days later, another hurt eagle was reported at the Cherokee Recreation Area boat ramp on Clarks Hill Lake. A DNR biologist caught the raptor, which could neither fly nor apparently see. It was treated by a veterinary clinic and taken to the Avian Conservation Center in Charleston, S.C. Unfortunately, suffering from severe head trauma and other significant issues, the eagle had to be euthanized.

Also on Dec. 8, a bald eagle was spotted impaled on a lightning rod atop a 120-foot tower at St. George Elementary School in Charlton County, near the Florida line. The response involving DNR, local officials and cell phone and tower companies culminated in Macclenny (Fla.) Fire and Rescue sending a ladder truck. With the truck's platform reaching only 95 feet high, an engineer climbed the last 25 feet and freed the bird, which glided to the ground where a DNR biologist captured it.

Sadly, the eagle died from its injuries while being taken to a rehabilitator.

According to Dr. Bob Sargent, a DNR Wildlife Conservation Section program manager who leads the agency’s bald eagle surveys, reports of eagles in trouble are common in late fall and winter, particularly involving vehicle collisions. “We get about 10 to 20 reports a year of eagles hit by cars,” Sargent said.

Bald eagles not only eat fish, they also feed on carrion, i.e., roadkill. And like other large birds, such as vultures, they cannot take off quickly. When spooked by approaching cars, the road is often the clearest – if riskiest – flight path.

Sargent urged drivers to keep watch for roadkill and feeding birds, and slow down to safely maneuver around any situations they spot.

One more update: While injured eagles were making headlines, the nesting pair live-streamed at Berry College was laying eggs, providing some needed good news for America’s bird.


Report Georgia sightings, including nests, at georgiawildlife.com/bald-eagle.


DNR right whale mom-and-calf video

The calf count for endangered North Atlantic right whales is up to four as of last weekend, with surveys for more continuing off the coast of Georgia, north Florida and the Carolinas. Meanwhile, DNR drone video of the calving season's first mom and calf offers a heart-warming look at interaction between the two.



Rufous hummingbird (Roy Lowe/USFWS)

Rufous hummingbird (Roy Lowe/USFWS)


One of the many reasons I enjoy winter bird feeding is that it is full of surprises.

At this time of year, permanent residents such as cardinals and chipping sparrows feed alongside winter migrants like pine siskins, purple finches and dark-eyed juncos. And from time to time, some of the luckiest among us even host a rare winter hummingbird or two.

During our second hummer season, which runs from November through March, a small number of western hummingbirds winter in Georgia. By far, the most common of these is the rufous hummingbird. However, it appears our chances of spotting one of these little brown hummers feeding at our feeders may be falling like a snowflake tumbling from the winter sky.

The reason why: The rufous hummingbird is in decline. …

Read the rest of Terry’s column to learn what’s up with this winter hummer.

Terry W. Johnson is a retired DNR manager and executive director of TERN, friends group of the Wildlife Conservation Section. Check out past columns and his blog. Permission is required to reprint a column.


Hunting and fishing license cards under the tree (Aubrey Pawlikowski/DNR)

Hunting and fishing license cards under the tree (Aubrey Pawlikowski/DNR)

Well, if asking Georgia’s native wildlife and rare plants, we can help answer that.

Considering that the DNR Wildlife Conservation Section depends on fundraisers, donations and grants (state funding makes up less than 5 percent of our research and conservation budget), here are five "gift" tips that truly help:


Planting a pink lady's slipper (Ethan Hatchett/DNR)

Planting a pink lady's slipper (Ethan Hatchett/DNR)

A massive rescue of about 1,000 pink lady’s slippers wrapped up last month as DNR staff and University of North Georgia students transplanted the remaining state-protected Cypripedium acaule from an Alpharetta tract targeted for road construction to a school field research site near Dahlonega. Students will help monitor the plants, gathering data useful for future relocations of this hard-to-move species. With the help of the state Department of Transportation and other partners, most of the orchids were moved in spring, while about 75 went to UNG this fall and 125 to Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell.

About 1 in 4 adults in Georgia take part in wildlife viewing. To answer that interest, DNR’s Wildlife Viewing Grants Program is again accepting proposals for projects that help people experience native animals, plants and natural habitats, especially those emphasized in the State Wildlife Action Plan.

Prothonotary warbler, a species of conservation concern in Georgia (Ty Ivey/GNPA)

Recovering America's Wildlife promised help for species of concern, such as prothonotary warblers. (Ty Ivey/GNPA)

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act failed to pass Congress after being left out of a $1.7 trillion spending package, the last major set of bills expected this year. The legislation that would have provided vital funding for states and tribal nations to conserve at-risk animals and plants enjoyed strong support among lawmakers and the public, but failed to make it into the omnibus because of questions over how it would be funded, The Wildlife Society reported. Related: A rider pushed by Maine lawmakers and added to the omnibus would put on hold for six years new regulations on lobster and Jonah crab fisheries aimed at better protecting North Atlantic right whales from entanglements in commercial fishing gear.

The U.S. outdoor recreation economy generated a record $862 billion and 4.5 million jobs in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In Georgia, the estimates included $13.2 billion “in value added” and nearly 140,000 jobs last year, the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable reports.

Sundial lupine and collecting seeds at Silver Lake WMA (Joe Burnam/DNR)

Sundial lupine and collecting seeds at Silver Lake WMA (Joe Burnam/DNR)

Plots of sundial lupine planted recently by Tall Timbers Research Station and DNR at southwest Georgia’s Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area will hopefully one day benefit frosted elfin butterflies. Sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis) is the host plant for this rare butterfly, a State Wildlife Action Plan priority species and one considered extirpated in Georgia until last spring, when caterpillars were moved from Apalachicola National Forest in Florida to The Jones Center at Ichauway in Baker County.

Working with federal and state agencies, DNR continues to monitor highly pathogenic avian influenza in game and nongame birds, from ducks to vultures. A Wildlife Resources Division website provides details on the disease, a map showing where it has been detected and an option for reporting dead birds.

Georgia Power's Jim Ozier and DNR botanist Carlee Steppe collect Georgia alder fruits (Mincy Moffett/USFWS)

Georgia Power's Jim Ozier and DNR botanist Carlee Steppe collect Georgia alder fruits (Mincy Moffett/USFWS)

Quick hits:

  • During fall’s first cold snap, DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section teamed with Georgia Power, State Botanical Garden of Georgia and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to collect over 5,000 seeds of Georgia alder from a Bartow County swamp, the only known site for this Alnus maritima subspecies.
  • Sweetwater Brewing is donating to DNR trout stocking for each hash-tagged FishForAFish photo showing a stack of the company's trout-themed Mosaic IPA cans.
  • Two bear cubs went out on a limb to eat acorns in an oak at northeast Georgia's Black Rock Mountain State Park this fall.
  • A Jan. 21 program at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield will provide participants a fascinating look at Georgia bats.
  • Georgia Audubon has received another Disney Conservation Fund grant for Project Safe Flight and Lights Out Georgia: This one will expand to the coast the program to reduce bird collisions.
  • The new Coastlines Georgia issue delves into how the DNR Coastal Resources Division is striking a balance between human population growth and conservation of red drum, the state’s saltwater game fish.

Names in the news: DNR wildlife technician B.J. Frank has been named Wildlife Manager of the Year by the Georgia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Among awards presented by the DNR Game Management Section, Diana McGrath was honored as Biologist of the Year, Jack Dominy as Employee of the Year and Fred Hay as recipient of the Chief’s Leadership Award. Gov. Brian Kemp presented Cpl. Tim Morris of the DNR Law Enforcement Division with the Governor’s Public Safety Award for Heroism for Morris’ fast work to help victims after a tornado tore through a Bryan County neighborhood in April. A Dec. 6 celebration of the life of Don Imm, a longtime U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leader who died in October, included sessions at Whitehall Forest and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens.


In the previous Georgia Wild:

- New wild animal rules

- Right whales' dire state

- Trees to build around

- Coosa mussels on video

video and audio

DNR video of watersnake and an American eel

   "Banded Watersnake vs. American Eel," DNR Facebook

   "Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation," Outdoor Recreation Roundtable

   Red-shouldered hawk, DNR Facebook

   "Great Horned Owls Return to Inspect Savannah Nest," Cornell Lab Bird Cams

   "Watch the Belted Kingfisher in Action," DNR Instagram


   (+audio) "Georgia wildlife advocates urge passage of federal bill to fund conservation," WABE-FM (90.1, Atlanta). Also: Saporta Report, Georgia Recorder, Yahoo!News.

   "Atlanta teacher named Conservation Teacher of Year," Yahoo!News (from Albany Herald) and others

   (+video) "Video of first right whale calf this season," The (Macon) Telegraph. Also: "Calves spotted" (WTOC-TV, Savannah), "Fla. biologists track whales off S.C. coast"(WCBD-TV, Charleston, S.C.), "A better lobster trap?" (Toronto Star), "Tougher rules on horizon" (Florida Politics), "More than just a number (why name right whales)" Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

   "Saving pink lady’s slippers from bulldozers," Atlanta Journal-Constitution

   "Georgia wildlife viewing grant proposals wanted," Calhoun Times and others

   (+audio, video) "Dugdown Corridor: a 'national model' for conservation," WABE-FM (90.1, Atlanta)

   "Rare wildflower becoming even rarer," Atlanta Journal-Constitution

   "Interior secretary: `Unacceptable’ to mine near famed swamp," Associated Press

   "Georgia effort seeks to boost gopher frogs," The Wildlife Society

   "State is home to many imperiled species," Georgia Magazine

   "Mild winter ahead? Maybe nature knows," Atlanta Journal-Constitution



Masthead: Right whale 3370 ("Archipelago") and calf off Little St. Simons on Dec. 9 (DNR, taken under NOAA permit 20556)