Champion Eagle Bander Charles L. Broley

About the champion eagle bander Charles L. Broley, history and biography of the man who tagged bald eagles.

The Champion Eagle Bander. Charles L. Broley, the "eagle man," made a major contribution to man's understanding of the bald eagle. By profession, Broley was a bank manager in Manitoba. But when he retired in 1938, and sought a hobby to occupy his time, he turned to birdwatching. Before long, his interest was focused on eagles, and he spent much of his time scaling trees in search of them.

"He would swing, spiderlike, on a web of fragile ropes, 100' above the earth, until he could secure a death grip on a jungle of sticks and heave himself into a nest of protesting--and sometimes threatening--birds."

Broley became concerned with the bald eagle after learning how land developers and irresponsible gunners had been driving them from their nesting trees. "The Florida eagles, prior to 1939, were also giving up a large share of their annual egg production to oologists, that band of incurable kleptomaniacs who took thousands of eggs from the nests of wild birds and kept them in carefully labeled storage cases."

There was also the unsolved mystery of why a sizable segment of the Florida eagle population would vanish from the State during the summer. No one knew where it went, or why it returned each fall.

A professional conservationist, Richard H. Pough, issued Broley 4 eagle bands and a banding permit. "Try banding some nestlings," Pough suggested. And then he quickly added, "Find a boy to do your climbing." Shinnying up trees was not an advisable pastime for retired bankers so far as Pough was concerned.

Traveling south to Tampa, Broley decided to do his own climbing, and he set out to design his own climbing equipment. "Next he began building a rope ladder with 2 long pieces of rope, between which he fitted 12" sections of wood as steps."

But Broley had severe problems securing this ladder in nesting trees. He used weights and pulleys for a while. "Later refinements of this system included a slingshot, which Broley handled with uncanny accuracy, and a fisherman's large casting reel to keep the line from tangling."

Once the ladder was in place and Broley had climbed to the top, he encountered his most serious problem. "No man is welcomed to the home of an eagle." Nevertheless, Broley would actually climb into the nest, grab the reluctant bird's left wing, hold it down with his knee, and then grope for its left foot to attach the aluminum band.

"The 1st year Broley banded 44 eagles, more than had ever been banded before in all of Florida. Broley began to get occasional returns from his banded eagles, and from surprisingly distant points. More than 1/3 of the recovered bands were taken from eagles 1,000 mi. or more up the eastern seaboard from their home nests."

Broley continued banding eagles for 12 years. He did all his banding in Florida, and spent his summers in Ontario where he "trained" for the work ahead of him. "When I could chin myself 18 times without pausing, I figured I was ready to climb again," he said.

Broley never fell from a tree nor was he ever injured by an eagle. During his remarkable retirement career, "he banded more than 1,200 eagles. His eagle work ended with the 1958 season. He had searched as diligently as ever along the same 100 mi. of coast where a short time ago he had banded as many as 150 eagles a year. But at the end of the season he had located only one young bald eagle on which to place a band."

In the spring of 1959, Broley died, "not by falling 100' from the top of a longleaf pine tree, but while fighting a brush fire near his home in Canada."

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