Peter Dubacher, owner of the Berkshire
Bird Paradise, holds two one-month old eagles. The birds were born
at the Bird Paradise Sanctuary.
Said to be impossible to breed
Eagles in captivity, birds born at sanctuary.
By Kelly Vadey – the Record
Grafton – Berkshire Bird Paradise is celebrating two new arrivals.
The sanctuary has a population of 2,000 birds and is home to 12 permanently
disabled American Bald Eagles. In early May, two baby eagles joined
the family. “To have two baby eagles is significant, because
it’s not generally done in captivity.,” said Director
Peter Dubacher. Three eagles were hatched, but one died within the
first 24 hours. Dubacher is licensed through the state Department
of Environmental and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to breed captive
eagles. The aviculturalist has been raising birds for 30 years. “Fifteen
years ago, they told me it was impossible to breed in captivity.”
Dubacher proved authorities wrong. In 2003, he hatched and released
two American Bald Eagles locally. One died when it landed on an electrical
transmitter, “That’s common even of birds that are born
in the wild,”’ he said.
The other is still alive to his knowledge and has been sighted in
Averill Park NY. Both eagles were tracked by radio for a year.
He is 80 percent sure one chick is a girl and the other is a boy..
The new chicks hatched two days apart. The older bird is heavy, weighing
in at about five pounds. Weight is generally an indication of gender.
Larger birds are usually female. The younger bird now weighs about
three pounds. They are both starting to grow feathers.
The American Bald Eagle was placed on the endangered species list
in the 1970s. Successful conservation methods such as the banning
DDT and eagle hunting led to a classification change of “threatened.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will release the birds on Lake
Champlain in July. This plan is the result of the Vermont Bald Eagle
Restoration Imitative. The purpose of the program is to bring breeding
American Eagles into Vermont.
The babies will be placed in a “hack box” or man-made
nest above the lake. “They’re fed discreetly so they don’t
equate food with humans,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist
The chicks will stay in the enclosed box for three to four weeks.
It is opened for them to fly away when the chicks are about seven
weeks old. Food will be provided for them near the box through the
summer while they learn to hunt for themselves.
Dubachers’ birds are the first from New York to take part in
the Vermont Initiative. In 2004, the program’s first year, brought
eight birds. Two pairs of wild chicks from both Maine and Maryland,
as well as three form a captive faculty in Massachusetts, were released.
These birds were not tracked electronically, but did have color bands.
One died of natural causes near Christmas. The others are thought
to be alive.
Amaral said he is not sure if Dubacher’s birds will be tracked
by radio. He said captive chicks and those taken from wild nest have
an equal chance of surviving. “Both groups go through this hacking
program and need to learn to feed themselves,” he said. More
information about the Vermont program can be found at: cvps.com/eagles.
The site provides a live “eaglecam” of the hack box.
Dubachers’baby eagles are not displayed for public viewing.
It is important they are not affected by human influence before their
release. He does photograph the chick daily for the public. The sanctuary
is located near Grafton Lakes State Park in NY. More information is
available at birdparadise.org
Baby Bald Eaglet three weeks old