One of Puget Sound's most-watched birds, a juvenile bald eagle that took its first flight earlier this month, has died.
A resident saw the bird fall from its nest high in a Douglas fir in Heritage Park on the edge of downtown Kirkland around 6:30 a.m. Monday and called 911, city officials reported.
The bird's death was confirmed by a police officer responding to the call and a parks worker who was just opening the park. Its body was retrieved later by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The young eagle was one of two that hatched this spring and took their first flight July 18. Celebrate Kirkland!, which sponsors the city's Fourth of July celebration, moved the launch site for the Independence Day fireworks farther from the eagles' nest in order not to startle the chicks and put them at risk for falling from the nest.
Parks operation manager Jason Filan said it was a "sad day" for those who had come to love the birds and followed their progress.
"Those couple of eaglets were beloved members of the Kirkland parks system," Filan said. "People loved observing them and watching them grow up. It's not every day you get to experience wildlife like that in the urban area."
Filan said federal wildlife agents told him the bird's fall could have been accidental or that it could have been pushed from the nest by a parent if it was the weaker bird. Federal wildlife agents will inspect the carcass carefully - and could perform a necropsy - to determine if it was weak or defective in some way.
Eastside Audubon spokeswoman Mary Brisson said that before the juveniles fledged, birdwatchers wondered if the parents were feeding one eaglet more than the other. But, she said, "Once we saw them both flying successfully and looking great, we were very surprised to hear today that one had died. We can't really square that with the idea that maybe it didn't have enough food. It seemed strong."
"It's so sad. Everyone's been so joyful about these birds," said Brisson, who acknowledged that unexpected death "can be the way of nature."