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Watch: Banding Finland’s golden eagles

Tuomo Puutio of Finland’s state-owned forest management organisation Metsähallitus lives near the nests of more than twenty nesting golden eagles in the northern Finland region of Ostrobothnia. In early June it is his job is to mark the newborn eaglets with leg bands. He says nips from the young eagles' beaks aren’t a problem, but their talons can be downright nasty.

Video: Tuomo Puutio rengastaa maakotkaa.
Video: Caution is required when fitting leg bands on an eagle. Wildlife inspector Tuomo Puutio reminds his patient that his “fingers aren’t sausages”. The video material is from summer 2014. Video: Tuomo Puutio / Metsähallitus

Metsähallitus inspector Tuomo Puutio has worked with endangered golden eagles for dozens of years, but in order to reach the nests, he first has to climb the trees. The territory he is responsible for contains over ten home ranges of the raptors, each with two to five nests. He can’t reveal their exact location due to conservation efforts.

His territory contains thirteen pairs of birds, and each produces at least one eaglet each year. Puutio is charged with marking the young birds with leg bands before they learn to fly, usually during the month of June.  

“You need to be careful not to fall from the tree when you climb to the nest. Of course we wear a safety harness, but the eaglets can be very temperamental. Their beaks aren’t all that sharp, but if they manage to wrap their talons around your hand, it is really difficult to pry yourself free. You have to use your second hand to manage their feet while you fit the bands to their legs – and you can’t let go for any reason,” he says.

Nine out of ten eagles use human-built nests

The eaglet in the video above is 50 days old and is already capable of tearing its food to shreds by itself.

“I don’t use gloves because I want to maintain my grasp of the tree as I climb it. They also get in the way when I am trying to band the birds. This means I get some scratches,” he says.

Puutio says human have been helping nature in many ways for a long time. The nests in his area are easy for him to find because he built them himself.  

“We build nests ready for the eagles, as it is really hard to find the right kind of tree. Estimates say that nine out of ten eagles that are nesting in Finland’s northern regions live in human-built nests.”

“The golden eagle likes to live at the top of a tree in a quiet oasis in the middle of a swamp, preferably with a sweeping view of the surroundings. It has to be easy to take off flying from the nest and so dense forests don’t attract large birds of prey. The oldest nest in Ostrobothnia had been used continually for forty years, but was eventually abandoned when the forest around it grew too thick.”  

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