On Thursday, February 20, staff from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Community Development Department (CDD) and raptor experts from the Arizona Game & Fish Department placed ID bands on two bald eagle chicks at their nest near Dobson Road. The CDD invited a small group of Community members, especially elders, as well as Salt River police and fire department staff and other tribal employees, to observe this meaningful and potentially life-changing event.
Guests parked an appropriate distance away from the nesting site and walked over together.
Desert bald eagles were placed on the Endangered Species List in 1971.
“The bald eagles were taken off the Endangered Species List recently, but we continue to protect them on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community,” said Brian Gewecke, senior environmental specialist, range management for the SRPMIC Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Department (EPNR). The ID bands are used to identify and track individual eagles for the rest of their 20-year lifespan, noting where they were born and where they travel on yearly migrations.
This particular nest contains one male and one female chick. At the time of the banding, they were four to six weeks old (hatched in December) and weighed about 8 pounds each.
A fire truck extended its ladder so the birds could be accessed for the banding. The chicks were taken from their nest and had caps placed on their heads so they wouldn’t see anything and panic. The caps also simulated nighttime for the chicks, when they are not as active and would remain very still. Their feet were about the size of an adult hand, and their sharp talons were covered with “socks” to prevent injury to the wildlife experts.
Community member Joyce Moquino was very curious about the whole process and was shocked to see that the nest was located close to an intersection and one of the loudest Enterprises in the Community.
“This was the most wonderful experience; I will never forget this,” said Moquino, who held one of the chicks while it was being banded. “It felt so good inside to hold a real eagle. I never thought I would get the chance to do this. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Other Community seniors also held the chicks, under the supervision of the raptor experts.
The CDD wants to thank everyone who has performed a service to protect the Community’s bald eagles in the past and encourages anyone who has not attended a bald-eagle banding to take this opportunity to embrace a strong symbol of many faiths and beliefs within Indian Country.