Partial Albino Golden Eagle

The above photo is of a partial albino (or whatever bird scientists are calling it these days). from the Pueblo Chieftan There's a once-in-a-lifetime guest at the Pueblo Nature and Raptor Center who'll be staying indefinitely.

Diana Miller, raptor center director, said the leucistic ("partially albino") golden eagle was found July 12 by ranchers in the Hoehne area in Southeastern Colorado. They contacted state Division of Wildlife officials, who brought the weakened bird to Pueblo.

Miller said the male bird's feathers have been severely damaged by parasitic, chewing lice. She surmised that they were especially susceptible to insect damage because most of them are lacking normal pigmentation. Pigmentation protects them from damage caused by the elements, she explained.

"He's also suffered a minor shoulder injury at some point. His wing is a little droopy," she said. "The condition of his feathers is a big problem. They're in horrible shape. Lots of them are very fuzzy and very frayed."

Miller said albino eagles are "pretty rare" and human encounters with them even more rare. "I have no idea what the statistics would be, but it would be way up there - one in a million, maybe," she said. The bird won't be on display at the raptor center until - and if - it is healed to the point that Miller and others determine it can either be released back into the wild or transferred to the public area of the center where other permanent residents live. Only birds that can't survive on their own stay on at the center after they've healed from the injuries or other conditions that brought them there.

"It's hard to say if he'll fly again. It's gonna be a long road. He's going to need to moult, and we'll have to wait and see how the new feathers come in and what condition they're in before we see whether he can survive in the wild again," she said.

Curious nature lovers may be able to view the eagle's progress by video on the center's Web site within the next few weeks.

"We're working on getting a Web cam set up and we'll see how that goes," Miller said.

For now, she added, "He's adjusting well. He's calming down and getting accustomed to his situation. He's eating well and enjoying having a pool of water to bathe in. I think he's just happy to have food and water, and not be out there struggling and starving to death."

She said the bird's tail feathers indicate an age oJ 2 or 3 years, so apparently it had been independent and healthy until this summer. "There's no way he could fly when he was found," she said. "We hope he will be able to again after he's healthy."

The raptor center, located on Nature Center Road just before the curve that leads to the nature center, accepts donations of cash and the raw meat of elk, deer and antelope to feed the birds of prey in its care.