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Bald Eagle C43: A Unique Hoosier
Picture above: The sight of soaring eagle is something generations of Hoosiers missed out on. Today they are making a comeback. (photo by Brandon Butler)
Seeing a bald eagle soaring high above is a magical experience for me. Even as the frequency of sightings increases, I never take seeing an eagle for granted. Generations of Hoosiers who came before us never or rarely had the chance to see eagles in the wild. Their rebound is a major conservation success story.
Cassie Hudson is a biologist a biologist with the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife based out of the Bloomington field office. During a recent trip on Lake Monroe with her husband, Brandon, and friends Eric and Teresa Bass, she spotted an eagle. But it wasn’t until later that she realized how special the experience was.
“We slowly cruised over, shut off the engine and quietly floated,” Hudson said.
Teresa Bass used telephoto lens on her camera to capture some up close and personal shots of the magnificent bird. Hudson shared the photos with DNR coworker Amy Kearns and former DNR employee John Castrale. What they discovered was remarkable.
This was no ordinary eagle. It was C43. Castrale used an orange color band on one wing and metal leg bands to identify the eagle as one of the original eagles released at Monroe when the Indiana DNR began its bald eagle restoration program in the late 1980s.
“I was kind of shocked,” said Castrale, who supervised the DNR’s release of bald eagles, peregrine falcons and ospreys before retiring last year.
C43 is a piece of conservation history in Indiana and beyond, and its wonderful to know the old gal is still flying around.
“It felt like a team effort,” Hudson said. “Me spotting the eagle, Teresa having a nice camera with a long lens to get a picture, and then coordinating with John and Amy to document a part of this bird’s history.”
Even more remarkable than just catching a glimpse of this old lady, was learning that she is still producing offspring. Castrale could tell by a brood patch on C43’s front.
“That indicates she’s still raising young,” Castrale said.
DNR records show that C43 was taken from a nest in Whitestone Harbor in southeastern Alaska on July 22, 1988.
“That makes her nearly 27 years old,” Castrale said. “Most birds don’t live that long.”
According to the Bird Banding Laboratory at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, only six banded bald eagles have lived longer. The oldest documented survivor was 33 years, 5 months.
“A few years ago we had one show up that may have been 23 years old,” Castrale said. “I figured that was the last hacked bird I’d hear about, so this surprised me.”
The DNR released C43 at Monroe Lake on Sept. 6, 1988. She was documented back at Monroe in 1994 and several other times. Her travels also took her to Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
“She seems to be one of those frequently spotted (birds) early on, according to my old notes,” said Al Parker, who worked with Castrale on the bald eagle restoration project in the 1980s. “Back then I called her Jenny.”
The bald eagle comeback is an amazing success story. These magnificent creatures were almost lost for good. They were on the state and federal endangered species list when Indiana began its reintroduction program in 1985. Last year there were an estimated 200-250 eagle nesting territories in Indian