During the colder months aircraft must be treated with chemical deicers to keep ice from building up on a plane's wings and fuselage. Ice can cause an aircraft to crash. Birds can have something of the same problem. Earlier this month an American Bald Eagle had to be rescued from Lake Michigan after landing and then becoming grounded by an 8 pound ball of ice that formed on its feathers.
Image via Weather.com
The bald eagle is one of the largest raptors on the planet with a wingspan of up to seven feet. That makes rescuing one that has become trapped a tricky situation. And even these large birds are no match for a polar vortex hitting norther Michigan. The whole thing is tricky all the way around.
People watching eagles over Sutton Bay on Lake Michigan had originally seen four eagles -- two adult and two juveniles. When three of them flew away, one eagle got stuck in the frigid water while hunting for food on a day when the air temperature had dipped to zero and even colder with the windchill. This caused the water to freeze almost instantly onto the bird's tail feathers, ultimately creating a ball of ice that was nearly as heavy as the bird itself.
Image via YouTube
Human neighbors in the area noticed the bird struggling to fly and called Michigan's Department of Natural Resources. The department in turn referred them to Wings of Wonder, a local raptor rehabilitation facility. The organization, which rehabilitates about 100 raptors a year, came out to get the bird
Two volunteer rescuers herded the bird toward the shore where he could be caught safely. They had come prepared with a padded box tor the eagle. The bird was taken to the facility and rinsed with warm water to slowly melt the ice and release his feathers. Once he was free and carefully dried, he stayed in the heated facility overnight before being moved to the flight pen to regain his strength. Fortunately the ice ball had not done any damage to his feathers. There was also no frostbite damage to the bird's feet.
Image via TribLive
In addition to being gorgeous, the bald eagle was cooperative and made an excellent patient for his rescuers. About a week later his rescuers took him back to release him into the wild.
Once he was freed he extended his wings and took off without looking back. What a strange adventure he had been through. Lucky for him that people cared enough to intervene.
Sources: 9 and 10 News, Detroit Free Press