HK Builds His Nest

HK Builds His Nest

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sterling's Story by Mary Reid Barrow

The following account was written by Mary Reid Barrow, correspondent for the Virginian Pilot and published on May 14, 2006. Ms. Barrow has graciously allowed me to republish the rough copy of the article from her files and also the accompanying photos. Article and photos are copyrighted material. Please do not reproduce or download.

Wind tossed Eagle helped back on its talons

A strong wind howled over the baby bald eagle in its tree top nest at Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge on Knotts Island recently and then down came baby, cradle and all.
When a refuge law enforcement officer noticed the nest was gone, Refuge Manager Tim Cooper and Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer Reese Lukei headed into the marsh to the rescue.
They rode in on a marsh buggy and found the 600 to 700 pounds of sticks from the big baby cradle lying on the ground – but no baby. The two fanned out, slogging through the marsh looking for the youngster.
“There he was, sitting on a log,” Lukei said.
The No. 1 option was to try and reunite the baby with its parents, he added. The baby was just a week or so from fledging.
So the eagle went to wildlife rehabilitator Lisa Barlow for a couple of nights to make sure it had not been hurt in the fall and to give the refuge time to come up with a substitute nest.
Dominion Virginia Power, experienced in dealing with osprey platforms and nests, was asked to help and, with refuge employees, erected an osprey-style nesting platform and box high in the sky near the fallen home. Cooper and Lukei hoped that the parents, who were hanging around the nest area, would return to care for their youngster. If not, the refuge would take over the job of mama and papa eagle.
On homecoming day, the baby eagle in wildlife rehabilitator Barlow’s arms was so placid, you would never have believed it had been ousted so rudely from its treetop home and separated from its parents only two days before.
Almost as big as a full-grown bald eagle, the sleek brown, speckled-with-white youngster had the formidable beak and talons of an adult, but it had the demeanor of a baby that had just awakened from a nap. The eagle, probably a female because it was so large, allowed Lukei to band its leg with nary an aggressive move.
The banding took place before manager Cooper took the eagle in his arms and rode in the Virginia Power truck bucket to take the baby to its new aerie in the sky.
Lukei and a refuge volunteer stayed to watch after the cars and trucks had left. Almost immediately the mother returned to the area. She flew over the nest and chased away a red-tailed hawk, a perceived danger, Lukei said.
The nest was observed throughout the week during daylight hours. At times both parents could be seen perched on trees nearby, but it took several days before one actually took a fish to its baby.
Soon after dinner that day, the youngster was exercising its wings, Lukei said, and it leaped up almost 20 feet. A gust of wind took the bird to the ground again. But this time, the eagle needed no rescue. It took off and flew 100 feet high and traveled for about a quarter of a mile. Since then it has been sighted flying over the refuge.
The big bird is the 16th eagle to have fledged from the Mackay Island nest since the birds returned there in 1998. This pair has always chosen to nest in dead trees in the marsh alongside the refuge impoundments, unlike most bald eagles that nest down in the crook of a live tree such as a tall pine. In 2003, the Mackay Island nest with eggs was in a tree that blew down altogether.
The eagle pair has been adopted by Knotts Island Elementary School second-graders, who have named the female “Liberty,” and the male, “Justice.” They named this baby “Sterling” for the coin.
At the time, they really didn’t know what a sterling silver baby they had.  
~ Mary Reid Barrow   


  1. Thank you for this uplifting story.

    1. What a beautiful story. Love hearing about Eagles that have a happy ending.

  2. Wonderful story and photos! MOST wonderful that she's been seen with HK...great choice!

  3. What a great story ... it wonderful that she's hanging around HK! I'm really looking forward to the upcoming nesting season!!!

  4. It's really great to learn more about Sterling. Since the loss of HK I have been watching for updates if anyone has spotted her, and to hear she is doing well.