The Remarkable Journey of Manu the Golden Eagle

By Grae O’Toole, Director, Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation and Ambassador Care

On January 2, 2024, our team at the VINS Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation and Ambassador Care received a phone call from a concerned member of the public who had spotted what they believed to be an eagle on the ground in a field in Bethel, VT. The bird was not flying away, so we immediately drove to the location to assess the situation. We were able to safely capture the bird, and to our amazement, it was a Golden Eagle.

Golden Eagles are a rare sight in Vermont, as they are more commonly found in the western part of the United States. However, there is a small population of Golden Eagles that nest in Northern Canada and migrate to the New York/Pennsylvania area in the winter months. When a Golden Eagle is seen in Vermont, it is usually just passing through on its migration route.

Once the eagle was safely at VINS, we were able to perform an intake exam to determine if the bird had any injuries. No major injuries were noted, but the bird did have an extremely full crop. It may have just finished eating a large meal and was unable to fly away due to the sheer weight of the food in its crop. We were also able to determine that the eagle had elevated blood lead levels, almost reaching toxic levels. X-rays showed that there was no large lead material in the bird, so we suspect that this lead level accumulated in his system over time from eating food items that had been exposed to lead.

The most amazing finding, though, was that the eagle was USGS banded and had a GPS backpack unit! This is the first patient the Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation and Ambassador Care has ever received with a GPS transmitter, so we were able to reach out to the organization that originally banded and attached the transmitter to find out more information about this particular eagle’s history.

This Golden Eagle was banded in 2007 by staff at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change in Quebec, Canada. They work very closely with endangered species monitoring in Canada and have an interest in Golden Eagle migration paths. Staff at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change have given him the name Manu, and when they captured him, he was estimated to be at least 4 years old given his adult plumage. This means Manu is AT LEAST 20 years old, but may be even older as plumage color in adult Golden Eagles doesn’t change much after the first few years. They actually put a backpack unit on him then, but he weaseled his way out of it within two months. They were able to recapture him in 2014 and try putting another GPS transmitter on. This is the transmitter that VINS staff observed when he arrived. The best part, the unit was still transmitting data!!! That means staff at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change have been tracking his movements for 10 YEARS!

Rehabilitation staff at VINS treated Manu for lead toxicity and waited for his crop to empty of all that food. It took 5 days for him to fully digest everything he had in his crop. The amount of food was estimated to be roughly 1/4 of his body weight!! His blood levels decreased after chelation treatments, and he was ready to be taken to the flight cage to exercise.

Needless to say, staff at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change were excited to hear from VINS staff regarding his whereabouts. They were able to share some of their most recent data showing Manu’s migration path in 2022 and 2023. That data also showed that central Vermont is one of Manu’s many stopover locations on his migration to New York. 2023 data even shows that he didn’t migrate to New York, but actually stayed in central Vermont and then went back to Canada for nesting season. Guillaume Tremblay (Assistant Deputy Minister of Biodiversity at MECC) noted that Manu has built nests in the same area each year, but not successfully found a mate in recent years. He also noted that last year Manu started migrating back north on February 9th and made it back on February 24th.

On February 9, 2024, VINS staff released Manu on campus after roughly 40 days in care. Given historical data, Manu will most likely begin his migration back to his nesting grounds.

This particular eagle contributes to many firsts for the rehabilitation department at VINS. It is the first Golden Eagle that has ever been received in the rehabilitation department. It is the first patient ever received with a GPS transmitter. It is the first patient that had a well-documented history before arriving at VINS, and the first patient VINS will be able to follow post-release more extensively.

Generally, birds arrive at the Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation and Ambassador Care, and so little is known about their history prior to arriving at VINS. Knowing Manu’s story overjoyed rehabilitation staff. It formed a stronger connection and understanding with a patient. What’s even better, rehabilitation staff will get to hear about Manu’s story post-release. Staff will get the opportunity to know how he is faring after he came through the rehabilitation center doors. Staff rarely get to know how a bird fared after being released. The crate door is opened, and they are gone in a flash. It leaves staff wondering how the bird is doing. Did it survive, did it stay in the release location, did it produce offspring? These are all questions that rarely get answered, and staff are so excited at the prospect of watching Manu continue on after his short stay at the VINS Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation and Ambassador Care.


  1. Judy Fox on March 3, 2024 at 5:13 pm

    Thank you for caring for him. My heart skipped a beat watching him fly away.

  2. Terry on March 5, 2024 at 10:47 pm

    Thanks for your loving care for Manu!! We are a fortunate community for having such dedicated VINS folks!

  3. Anonymous on March 11, 2024 at 4:20 am

    Wow! How long is his “backpack” good for? That big meal may have saved life given the lead toxicity. Awesome job team VINS!

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