Everyone loves a good story involving some Good Samaritan coming to the aid of an injured or struggling animal. Well, this story kicks the warm and fuzzy factor up by quite a few notches. Recently, a farmer in North Iceland was out for a stroll when he noticed a large bird struggling next to the Miofjorour River. When it was clear that the bird was unable to fly, Porarinn Rafnsson came to the animal’s aid by tossing his jacket over the top of it and bringing it home with him. There, Rafnsson realized he had an eagle, and he fed the bird a meal of salmon and lamb.
Rafnsson then contacted the local authorities for assistance who, in turn, contacted the Icelandic Institute of Natural History. The Institute elected to take the raptor into their own care, and after examining the bird, they realized that Porainn Rafnsson had, in fact, come to the aid of a bird that had been previously tagged in 1993. The average lifespan of a sea eagle (also known as white-tailed eagles) is 25 years on the high-end, so the institute surmised that they had one of the oldest living male sea eagles in the world.
According to the institute, Icelandic sea eagles aren’t a species you see every day. In fact, they’re pretty rare. They used to be more common, but elimination efforts early in the 19th century led to the birds’ near extinction. Sea Eagles became a protected species under Icelandic law in 1914, but the birds struggled to recover until about 1964. That was a pivotal year, as the country banned killing foxes with poison baits. Surprisingly, the eagle population began to rise again, implying that the birds were also consuming the poison.
The last count for the Icelandic Sea Eagle was conducted in 2006. At that time, 66 breeding pairs were counted (the count did not include juvenile birds). Those numbers were the highest that had been recorded since the Sea Eagle became protected, almost a century earlier.
As of today, the rescued Icelandic Sea Eagle discovered by Porainn Rafnsson is still under the care of experts at the Icelandic Institute of Natural History.