ERIE, Mich The twin brothers have never served in the military, but they said they felt a patriotic call to duty Friday when they discovered America s bird was in peril.
Joe and Jon Barbara, 51, found a bald eagle in Erie on Good Friday and transferred it to Monroe raptor specialists Dave and Scott Hogan for rehabilitation and safekeeping.
That s our national symbol. It s one of the most powerful symbols in the world, and we just wanted to make sure it was preserved, Joe Barbara, of Erie, said. We are not heroes. Any good American would have done the same thing.
The real heroes are those that put their life on the line every day to make sure that symbol is preserved.
Jon Barbara, of Point Place, a Canadian National Railway conductor, spotted the bald eagle perched on a tree stump in a wooded area.
He was scanning the woods last Thursday from the window of his Toledo-bound train because about a week earlier his brother Joe, an engineer for Canadian National, had seen the eagle off the railroad tracks tracks which he and his brother have ridden from Toledo to Detroit for more than 30 years.
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By reporting the bird to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the brothers figured they had done their civic duty. But the brothers and their co-workers continued to keep a lookout, just in case, scanning the woods beyond the tracks whenever they sped past the Substation Road-Suder Avenue area.
After seeing the eagle was still out there, the brothers, who trapped their first muskrat when they were 6 years old, took matters into their own hands.
It was like the call of the wild, Jon Barbara said. I called my brother Joe and told him, Don t make any plans because we are going to be rescuing a raptor tomorrow.
Joe Barbara s wife, Helenne, 46, grabbed their son s video camera and the trio went off for a little search and rescue last Friday morning.
Their friend, Erie resident Mick Johnson, 58, drove the pickup and covered the southern escape route, watching in case the eagle made a dash for the perimeter.
Joe herded the eagle over to his brother Jon, who picked it up by its talons. The eagle, likely famished from a week in the woods and with a broken left wing, did not put up a struggle.
I thought, If the bird s in there, I m going to get it out. I m not going to let it spend one more night out there. It was a feeling of patriotism, Jon Barbara said.
He said his uncles and father fought in World War II, and that neither he nor his brother had ever served the country, but it s like this was something I could do for the national bird.
What a great, great, awesome feeling, holding America s bird in your hands, he said. I ve trapped lots of foxes and coyotes over the years, but this was the pinnacle. I ve seen eagles before, but the closest one I ever touched was on the back of a quarter.
Scott Hogan, 27, picked up the eagle from the Barbaras and he and his father, Dave, took it to a veterinarian and got the forearm of its left wing pinned.
The five-pound eagle with a six-foot wing span is staying at the Hogans back porch with its wing in a sling.
The endangered bird is safe for now.
If it fully recovers, Scott Hogan says he and his father will release it back into the wild. Otherwise, they likely will give the 5-year-old bird to a local zoo to be used in bird shows.
Contact Benjamin Alexander-Blochat:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6168.