Eaglet banding program takes flight in Gautier

We went back to a familiar eagle’s nest at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge in Gautier where the eaglets are banded and fitted with transmitters.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 2:32 PM CST
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GAUTIER, Miss. (WLOX) - We went back to a familiar eagle’s nest at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge in Gautier. Last year we were here when they put eagle bands and GPS transmitters on two eaglets. Within 4-5 months, those eagles took flight and migrated to areas as far north as Canada.

“We start watching for them in October when they show up, and we’ll notice that in December, usually, we’ll actually see one sitting on the nest,” said Lauren McLaurin, a volunteer tour guide at the refuge.

When he sees the eaglets, teams from Mississippi Power, Mississippi State University and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Bureau show up.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to get out here and see this firsthand. We appreciate the partnership we have with Mississippi State,” said Tony Smith, environmental affairs manager at Mississippi Power.

The team gets the marsh buggy, cranes up the bucket, gets the eaglets and begins the banding and testing.

“Last year was the first year we put a transmitter on it. We had the two nestlings. This year we have two nestlings, and we’re putting transmitters on both of them to see if they travel together,” said Scott Rush, Mississippi State associate professor.

The eaglets are banded and fitted with transmitters and checked for health concerns. In fact, one of the eaglets has a beak issue.

“It looks different to us. It’s anomalous; we don’t know what the cause is, but this bird is healthier and it weighs more than its nest mate suggests that it’s eating enough and it’s pretty well fed,” Rush added.

The program is in its fifth year.

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