The 30 bald eagles that survived a deadly feeding frenzy in a dump truck filled with fish guts are flying again.
Era Aviation and Alaska Airlines are bringing the birds from Kodiak to Anchorage so they can be cleaned and cared for by the Bird Treatment and Learning Center before being returned to the wild.
Six of the eagles arrived on afternoon flights Sunday and 12 more were expected on evening flights, said Cindy Palmatier, director of avian care at the center.
The rest of the birds should arrive on flights today, said Gary Wheeler, manager of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, which has been caring for the birds since Friday's bizarre episode at the Ocean Beauty Seafoods plant in Kodiak.
Twenty bald eagles died when about 50 of the birds dived into an uncovered dump truck filled with fish guts.
Most of the dead birds were drowned or crushed in the gooey substance, which one wildlife official in Kodiak likened to quicksand. Two died later Friday night, but the rest appear to be getting better, Wheeler said.
"They're getting a little feisty now," he said. "They're feeling their oats, for sure, so you can tell they're feeling better. They're more perky. They're wanting to fly."
Wheeler said wildlife workers in Kodiak planned to wash the eagles again this weekend when a bird biologist with the International Bird Rescue and Research Center recommended sending the birds to the rescue center in Anchorage instead.
"The folks there have more expertise," Wheeler said. "This is the first time since the Exxon Valdez oil spill that we've had to handle this many birds. We've kind of improvised."
No one's certain where the eagles will be released once they have recovered.
The city of Kodiak -- home to about 500 eagles, Wheeler said -- would like them back. But the logistics of flying the eagles back to Kodiak -- three on this flight, five on that flight, until all 30 have made the trip -- could mean they're released in Anchorage, Palmatier said.
At least there's no rush to determine the birds' fates. The eagles are likely to remain at the recovery center for at least two weeks, Palmatier said.
If bird lovers want to help, she added, they can do so in two ways -- by donating salmon (frozen is fine; processed is not) or cash.
The salmon will help keep the eagles fed and the money will help pay for the center's utility bills, which are expected to soar as high as an eagle with so many birds to take care of.
Workers at the center cranked up the heat this weekend to between 75 and 80 degrees to keep the eagles warm, and it will use a lot of hot water in the coming days to wash and rinse the birds.
Keeping the birds warm is as important as getting them clean, Palmatier said, because the birds can't stay warm by themselves with feathers soiled by oily fish guts.
"They don't have a lot of thermal regulation because of the oil," she said. "They're very cold."
"It's a new form of aromatherapy," Palmatier said with a laugh as she described the scene at the center. "It smells very fishy."
Find Beth Bragg online at adn.com/contact/bbragg or call 257-4309.