If you want to find something you’ve lost you turn to social media to help spread the word.
At a time when many view social media as a divisive tool, it’s rewarding to share a story where social media unites.
Last summer, a Bald Eagle was stolen from a bird of prey wildlife rehabilitation center in Long Island, NY.
The center was distraught over the loss of their bird ambassador, who required daily medical care.
Stolen Bald Eagle in Long Island, NY
Those of us who love birds, especially birds of prey, were shocked and saddened to hear the news.
We all were following the story hoping for a happy ending.
That was not the case.
All we were left with is a scratchy surveillance video of a nefarious character carrying what looks like a Bald Eagle in a bag from the center’s grounds.
Sadly, the Bald Eagle was never found.
I’m not going to elaborate on why someone will perpetrate such a crime to give others ideas.
But it was a cruel, senseless act leaving many of us in the birding community reeling in a state of shock.
Missing Bald Eagle in Connecticut
So you can imagine our thoughts when this same, heinous act happened this week at a bird of prey wildlife rehabilitation center in Ashford, Connecticut.
But this time, I knew the center, the rehabilitator, and the Bald Eagle.
Mary-Beth Kaeser, the owner of Horizon Wings, was kind to give intoBird’s a personal tour of the center a few years ago, and we see Mary-Beth at many birding events throughout Connecticut.
When we saw the news over social media that Mary Beth’s male Bald Eagle bird ambassador, Atka, was missing in his aviary for his morning breakfast, we were shocked.
Just the day before, Atka was the star of the birds of prey show at the Shepaug Dam in Southbury, Connecticut.
We questioned who could do such a horrible thing to an injured raptor.
Atka is a non-flighted bird and has been under Mary-Beth’s care since 2011 as a 1-year-old juvenile from the state of Washington.
He has an injured right wing, which prevents his release back into the wild.
Birding Community Takes to Social Media
After hearing the news, intoBirds, like many others, took to social media to share the story over Facebook and Instagram to connect with others and spread the word.
The police began investigating, people were searching the area, and local Connecticut news crews were covering the story.
Everyone was sharing the news with a simple message: bring Atka home.
I was overwhelmed to see people from all over the country reposting our post about Akta.
Within a few hours, the posts circulated through our social media feeds.
A GoFundMe page was up, and a reward was offered for Atka’s safe return.
We were hoping if someone has information to share, they will come forward.
Bring Atka Home
All it took was just a simple click of a button.
Social media was uniting strangers with a shared love for birds to share a message for a positive outcome.
The next morning we were thrilled to hear that Atka was found where he was lost on Horizon Wings’ grounds.
We don’t know any other details, but all that matters is Atka is safely back home.
Injured Birds of Prey
Through this ordeal, many ask if Atka is a wild Bald Eagle, why can’t he survive in the wild?
Birds of prey at rehabilitation centers are there because they’re injured, often by the hands of humanity.
Birds of prey successfully rehabilitated and can survive in the wild are released back to the wild.
But raptors like Atka with permanent injuries and are unable to survive in the wild because they have special medical needs become bird ambassadors.
They serve as ambassadors between humanity and the natural world to teach us how we can better coexist with nature.
Every bird ambassador has a story to help educate us so we can improve our behavior.
Human Behavior Injures Birds
We do many things causing harm to birds.
A few changes can help save birds and nature from suffering injuries by our hands.
Simple things like not throwing trash outside your car window.
Trash attracts rodents to the roadside where birds of prey swoop in as nature’s pest control preying on rodents and getting hit by cars.
Or not using rodenticide (rat poison) that kills the predators preying on mice and killing them.
And leaving windows uncovered, so birds collide with them.
Or littering the roadways with plastic bags.
Dumping plastic waste and straws into our lakes, streams, rivers, and oceans.
Releasing balloons into the environment or leaving fishing lines in nature.
All these actions injure and kill birds.
Who Owns Injured Birds of Prey
When someone takes a bird of prey from a rehabilitation center, they are committing a federal crime in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
This act makes it illegal to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid Federal permit.
The migratory birds at wildlife centers are the property of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
Wildlife centers, like Horizon Wings, are caretakers of these birds and pay for their food, housing, and medical care.
These centers educate the public about the importance of conservation and protection of our endangered species.
They devote their life’s work to caring for these birds and forming lifelong bonds with them.
I can only imagine the heartache they feel when they go missing.
A Happy Ending
I’m glad Atka is back home where he belongs.
His return is proof that social media is more than a daily distraction in our lives, and unites people across the globe.
It’s one day later, and I’m still reading posts from elated fans sharing the news that Atka is home and enjoying a happy ending.
Horizon Wings Raptor Rehabilitation and Education is a 501C3 non-profit Wildlife Rehabilitation Center specializing in Birds of Prey located in Ashford, CT. Horizon Wings has several raptors that cannot be released back into the wild due to their injuries and keeps these birds with a special permit for educational programs.
Learn more about Horizon Wings here.