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2014 Nesting Season at Eagle Mountain Sanctuary
Featuring Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson

This spring, three pairs of non-releasable Bald Eagles laid eggs inside the enormous aviary at Eagle Mountain Sanctuary on the Dollywood Park. Three eaglets grew up in two nests: Isaiah & Mrs. Jefferson raised their own two, and Hero & Volunteer skillfully fostered a baby eaglet when their own eggs were determined to be infertile. Franklin & Independence, the third pair, laid three infertile eggs and did not raise babies this year.

For the first time ever, the nest of Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson was featured on our high definition video camera. Vewers and chatters watched these eaglets every day, experiencing all the nest activities and antics of the two babies.

All three eaglets were recently removed from their Dollywood nests and transferred to the AEF's artificial nesting tower on Douglas Lake in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. For more information about why the eaglets are taken from their nest and placed in the AEF hack tower, click here.

Watch the "Graduation" video, narrated by Al Cecere.

In addition, two of our off-site Bald Eagle breeding pairs, Peace & Faithful and Freedom & Faithful Spirit, successfully raised one eaglet in each of their nests. Our Golden Eagle Pair, Wankan Tankan and Cheyenne, raised two beautiful eaglets that were recently transferred to the SIA Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Society in Oklahoma to be used for educational and ceremonial purposes.

Watch a recap video of the AEF nesting season, narrated by Beth Parker.


Independence and Franklin

Frank and Indy
Franklin and Independence on their nest at Eagle Mountain Sanctuary
Dollywood Park, Pigeon Forge, TN

Normally, as we have done during so many previous years, we would be featuring the nest of Bald Eagle pair Independence and Franklin. Due to a storm last summer that caused massive damage to their aviary structure and netting, this pair was temporarily relocated into a different aviary at our off-park facility while the damage was being repaired over a period of several months. Also, the left wing of Independence was slightly injured, which required some rehab treatment away from her mate.

Prior to being placed back into their familiar nesting aviary on the Dollywood Park, the pair was temporarly placed inside a private breeding enclosure located off the Dollywood Park. They returned to a cleaned-up and repaired aviary in February. In early March, Independence laid three eggs. However, all three eggs were infertile.

Today, Independence and Franklin seem to be happier than ever living back at their Dollywood home. The American Eagle Foundation is hopeful that next year will be a successful breeding season for this sensational pair of resident eagles.


Hero and Volunteer

The AEF does not yet have a camera focused on the nest of Hero and Volunteer, but below are photos of the baby eaglet they fostered in their nest. This eaglet will be released into the Great Smoky Mountains from the Douglas Lake Hack Tower in East Tennessee during the annual Chat Reunion the week of June 26, in honor of Retired Colonel Donald Lee Keil, U.S. Army (and father of Chatter Parker Allens).

            E3 hatched in an AEF incubator on April 4, 2014       ...      and was placed in Hero & Volunteer's nest to be fostered April 10



Mrs. Jefferson and Isaiah

Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson
Top: Isaiah (Left) and Mrs. Jefferson (Right)
Below: The pool at the bottom of their enclosure is a favorite place to cool off.

As we had not initially planned to have direct camera access for the nest of Mrs. Jefferson and Isaiah, we only had overhead cam access after the babies had hatched. However, we hope you will enjoy the Scrapbook that has been put together for their nesting season. We especially thank the Chatters, who supplied us with hundreds of photos and a few videos they captured of special moments in the nest.

Of course, our cam operators and moderators make the experience so much better for everyone viewing, and we appreciate their dedication and expertise. In addition, they are a welcoming presence in our Chat Room, and ensure that visitors to our nests feel "at home." Thank you, mods and cam operators, for your support of the American Eagle Foundation!


Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Graduation | Videos

Week One - Baby eaglets: white, fluffy, cuteness overload.


Fluffy and white

The two eaglets were hatched around April 6, 2014 Cute and fluffy - instant stars!

Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson

Mrs Jefferson on babies

This is the nest of Mrs. Jefferson and Isaiah Mrs. Jefferson keeps the babies warm.

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Week Two - Growing bigger, life is good.

Lined up for dinner

Then, nap time.

Lined up for dinner.
Then, nap time.

Best friends.

Snuggled together, enjoying each other.

Snuggled together. Enjoying each other.

Where did that stick come from?

Tiny eaglets in a big nest!

You put a stick on us!
Mom and eaglets.

Snuggling under Dad.

Lunch time again!

Snuggled under Dad.
Time for lunch again!

Keeping dry.

Getting bigger.

Snug under Mom during a rainy day.
We're much larger now!

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Week Three - Everything progressing right on schedule!

Keeping warm

How about a little attention

Growing eaglets require lots of sleep.
How about a little attention!

A close up with our great HD cam

Do you see the ear hole?

A close up with our super HD cam ...
Do you see the ear hole?

Baby talons

Lined up for dinner again.

Baby talons!
Lined up for dinner again.

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Week Four - Pin Feathers, clown feet, curiosity.

full crop, food coma.

Wonder what's down there?

Full crops - food coma.
Wonder what's down there?

Pin feathers coming in.

Checking on kids.

Pin feathers!
Checking on the kids.

The whole family.

Stuffed eaglets.

The whole family.
Stuffed eaglets.

Sleep, sleep, sleep.

Lunch time again!

Sleep, sleep, sleep!
More food!


The end of their 4th week

A good place to rest!
The end of their 4th week.

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Week Five - Our eaglets are growing up!

Dandelion feathers.

It looks more interesting down there.

At this age, the feathers on their heads look like dandelions!
Very curious about what's down there.

Growing tail feathers.

A close up with our great HD cam

Adult tail feathers begin to emerge.
Another great close up with our HD cam.

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Week Six - Wingercizing, feathers becoming darker, much larger now.

Massive talons - and the color is now gold.

The "dandelion" feathers crown a sleeping eaglet's head.

Massive talons - their feet are now "eagle gold!"
The "dandelion" feathers crown a sleeping eaglet's head.

Larger eaglets still rely on parent for food.

A big wing span!

Mom and Dad still provide food, but eaglets much larger.
A big wing span!

Looking more like an adult

Isaiah, Mrs. Jefferson, and the kids.

I'm looking more like a grown up!
Isaiah, Mrs. Jefferson, and the kids.

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Week Seven - Their last week in the nest.

Massive talons - and the color is now gold.

The "dandelion" feathers crown a sleeping eaglet's head.

A happy nest, with siblings bonding often.
Tail feathers coming in, but lots more growing to do.

Larger eaglets still rely on parent for food.

A big wing span!

A big bite of food -
but these eaglets are now able to eat on their own
The eaglets often choose to be up against the rail.

Looking more like an adult

Isaiah, Mrs. Jefferson, and the kids.

Lots of wingercizing going on.

Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson's job is now over.

Looking more like an adult

Art by MarthaAnn Madigan


We've Been Hacked!

Photo capture by Chrystal Slusher / Caption by Peggy Ivimey

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We've graduated!

Al gathers up E3 from the nest of Hero and Volunteer

And then gets the two from Isaiah & Mrs. Jefferson's nest

Al Cecere gathers up E3 from the nest of Hero and Volunteer
And then gets the two from Mrs. Jefferson and Isaiah's nest

Carefully transferring an eaglet to the carrier

Craig Strong, Laura Sterbens, & Julia Cecere with the eaglets

Carefully transferring an eaglet to the carrier

The trek down the steep hill is made by Craig Strong,
Laura Sterbens, and Julia Cecere.

Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson
Banding, weighing, dusting for mites

Placing the eaglets in their new compartment

With a million dollar view of the lake

Placing the eaglets in their new compartment
With the million-dollar view!

Fresh pine needles make for a soft nest.

An AEF staff member wears camouflage clothing when feeding the eaglets

Fresh pine straw creates a soft nest.
AEF staff wear camouflage clothing when feeding eaglets.

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Why are the eaglets removed from the nest and taken to the hack tower instead of letting them remain with their parents?

AEF makes every effort to prevent the eaglets born in captivity from seeing over the top of the nest and downward toward nearby humans. After eaglets are over 5 1/2 to 6 weeks of age, they can normally extend their necks over the edge of the nests, and see not only visitors at Dollywood, but also AEF caregivers bringing food into the aviary. While it is fine for the parents to see humans do this, it is a risk for the young eaglets to associate humans with food, because they might never learn to hunt on their own and would therefore not be able to survive in the wild. In addition, while living in their spacious compartments in the Hack Tower, the eaglets soon acclimate to the wider world of nature. They see Douglas Lake right outside their window, the forests surrounding the lake, and we know for certain that there is a good chance they will eventually come back to the same general area from which they first fledged to build nests and raise eaglets of their own.  In fact, one of the eaglets born in the nest of Independence and Franklin in 2007 brought her mate back to this area and now has an established nest where babies have been raised.

Watch a short video narrated by Bob Hatcher about the success of the Bald Eagle Hacking program in Tennessee.

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Videos from the nesting season:
Huddle Cuddle
Babies at 4 weeks old
Mrs. Jefferson also
By Mocha Mama
Apri 29, 2014
Dinner Time
Babies are fed around 7:40 p.m. nest TIME
By Mocha Mama
April 26, 2014
10:28 minutes
Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson Feeding Babies
By Mocha Mama
April 26, 2014
Nest time 4:45 p.m.
7:26 minutes
The babies were 3 weeks old when the video was made.
by STE
6:30 minutes
2 Eaglets Sleeping
Last Day at Nest
By Mocha Mama 5-21-14
1:21 minutes
Eaglets - sleeping
Last Day at Nest
By Eiguoc
9:59 minutes
Last Day In Nest - Graduation to the Hack Tower - May 21, 2014
"Bald Eagle" by Barbara Speicher
"Save the Eagle" Written and performed by James Rogers
"Born to Be" Written and performed by James Rogers.

14:24 minutes
Eaglets at Dollywood Graduate to Hack Tower
Filmed / edited by Kevin Tierney and narrated by Al Cecere
May 21, 2014
9:58 minutes
Release of "Hallmark" during Chatter Reunion
Also Highlights of Ceremony preceeding release
June 27, 2014
By Rick and Elaine Black
7:23 minutes

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