Bald eagle rescued from ice in Waukegan Harbor thanks to kayaker

ByLiz Nagy and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Wednesday, January 4, 2023
Kayaker rescues bald eagle from ice in Waukegan Harbor
When a young bald eagle was spotted sitting on the ice in Waukegan Harbor and not moving, a Chicago Bird Collisions Monitor volunteer raced to help.

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (WLS) -- Jim Tibensky is a veteran volunteer bird rescuer.

He's worked with Chicago Bird Collision Monitors for years, but the call he got on Sunday was a new one.

"I've rescued hundreds and hundreds of birds, but never a bald eagle," Tibensky said.

And this rescue was risky.

Dr. Sarah Reich of Willowbrook Wildlife Center and kayaker Jim Tibensky talk about a bald eagle's recovery after being rescued from Lake MIchigan.

"The bird, with their talons and beak, could really do some damage, and obviously when a person gets close, they're going to be terrified," Tibensky said.

Bird-watchers reached out to the rescue group after spotting a bald eagle floating on a single piece of ice in Waukegan Harbor.

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"The bird looked really miserable. It was wet, bedraggled, and when I got there, it didn't move at all. From the time I saw it to the time they got it in the net, I didn't even see it blink its eyes," Tibensky said.

Tibensky, a longtime kayak racer used a technique he learned from white water rafting to push the ice, and the eagle, to shore.

"I got my bow up on the ice a little bit and then just very slowly, hoping not to dislodge the bird, paddled," Tibensky said. "It was on the opposite side of the harbor from where the people were, so I had to paddle it all the way across."

That's where other volunteers stepped in.

"They went and got some nets with very large handles and managed to scoop the bird up," Tibensky said.

The eagle was taken to Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn, where it's now being nursed back to health.

"He's eating, sitting up, looking 100% better than yesterday," Tibensky said.

The eagle is being treated at the WIllowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn. or more information on it, visit