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Kody, the lost eagle, is winging its way to the north

John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Outdoors

PITTSBURGH — A Steller's sea eagle that escaped from the National Aviary was sighted Thursday near North Park. The bird was last seen heading north with a recovery team on its tail.

After spending a few days hopping around the North Side, the big bird spread its six-foot wings and flew to Riverview Park in Perry North. Thursday, Aviary staff spotted Kodiak, as the animal is called, roosting at the highest point in one of the tallest trees just south of North Park.

"This team of animal care experts as well as our executive director [Cheryl Tracy] camped out to monitor Kody's roost throughout the night," said Molly Toth, Aviary spokeswoman, in a statement. "Through their observations, they were able to confirm that Kody is still in excellent health and body condition."

Friday morning the recovery team placed familiar food nearby to entice the bird. It passed on breakfast, however, and was seen flying toward North Park.

There it will find other raptors in the neighborhood but no competition. In the spring, following the death of a bald eagle that has nested in the park for two years, its mate flew off leaving no fledglings lingering into late summer and early autumn. Red-tailed hawks and various owl species reside in North Park, but they are a fraction of the size of a Steller's, among the world's largest eagles.

The 16-year-old raptor was born in captivity and has lived in an Aviary enclosure for 15 years. It seems to want to get out of the city and spread its wings. Since apparently escaping through a hole in its outdoor enclosure fence, it has traveled from the North Side streets, north to Riverview Park, Pittsburgh's fourth largest municipal park, and on to the 3,075-acre North Park, the largest of the parks maintained by Allegheny County.

If it keeps heading north to Mars and beyond, it will find even more forested areas, waterways and carrion to scavenge. Native to coastal Japan and Eastern Russia, it is unclear how the body of a Steller's sea eagle would respond in the wild to a Pennsylvania winter.

 

The bird is not outfitted with telemetry technology, and drones and other mechanical devices would likely scare it off. Staff have tried to keep up with the bird by relying on their own sightings and tips from the public.

The Aviary is not commenting regarding specific locations of sightings and probable means of capture. It is believed that a netting device will be used to entrap the full 4-foot length of the 20-pound sea eagle without injuring the animal and its handlers.

Ms. Toth said there is hope the escapee may return to the North Side.

"Having had this experience, we are more hopeful that Kody will come home soon, though obviously disappointed that today is, so far, not the day," she said. "We are extremely grateful to the community for their support in sharing their sightings of Kody with us."

The big male sea eagle is brown with a white tail and shoulder patches and a yellow beak. If you see him, don't approach or make noise or sudden movements. Call the National Aviary at 412-323-7235.

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