Dollywood Bald Eagles Raise their 30th Eaglet – Watch Live on HD Nest Cams
PIGEON FORGE – Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park is well known for its delicious food, entertaining shows, and exhilarating roller coasters, but also for its partnership with the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) and a special Bald Eagle breeding pair that reside on the park.
Both Dollywood and AEF are celebrating their 30th anniversaries this year, and it turns out that these disabled Bald Eagle parents, named ‘Independence’ and ‘Franklin,’ are raising their 30th eaglet.
This Bald Eagle pair has become world famous due to the High Definition Video Cams that stream their nesting activities 24-7 to thousands of viewers around the globe. This live stream can be viewed at www.eagles.org and is currently being featured by the United States Postal Service on their new “Watch Us Deliver” dashboard (www.watchusdeliver.com).
Independence and Franklin are permanently disabled, non-releasable Bald Eagles that were both shot in their left wings by poachers in Alaska and then transferred to the American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to be forever cared for. In April 2000, they chose each other as mates in captivity and were given their own nesting space inside ‘Eagle Mountain Sanctuary,’ an enormous naturally landscaped outdoor aviary located next to the ‘Wings of America’ birds of prey show at Dollywood. Two dozen other Bald Eagles reside in Eagle Mountain Sanctuary as well. The aviary and show are operated by the AEF in cooperation with Dollywood.
Since 2002, this pair has successfully raised 29 eaglets that have been released into the wild to help repopulate Bald Eagles in the United States. This year, the three eggs laid by Independence (the female of the Eagle pair) did not hatch (one was accidentally broken by a stick and two were infertile), which can be a natural occurrence even in the wild.
However, Independence and Franklin still got to be parents this nesting season. The pair was given an eaglet that hatched in an incubator on May 6th from an egg produced by another Bald Eagle breeding pair at the AEF. The egg was found on the ground in Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, and despite the AEF’s concern that the egg might have missed adequate incubation from its parents, it was still transferred to an incubator with a hope and a prayer. It miraculously hatched 36 days later!
Independence and Franklin immediately accepted this eaglet as their own and are exhibiting dedicated Bald Eagle parenting skills. The eaglet is the epitome of cuteness and is growing rapidly! (“Fostering” is a practice sometimes used in captive-breeding programs, and orphaned eaglets are periodically placed in wild nests.)
When it reaches 6-7 weeks of age, this eaglet will be transferred to the AEF’s hacking tower overlooking Douglas Lake in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. A hacking tower is an artificial nesting tower used to naturally raise and fledge captive-hatched and rehabilitated young eagles. At 13 weeks of age, the eaglet will be set free from this man-made nest and begin its journey in the wild.
After Bald Eagles become sexually mature (at about 4 to 5 years of age) and choose their life-long mates, they tend to return to the general area where one of the pair first learned to fly. This past year, the AEF discovered the identity of a local Bald Eagle that has nested in the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee area and produced 7 young over the past several years with her mate. Powerful cameras allowed the AEF to read the ID number on the Eagle’s metal leg band, and it was revealed to be a female eagle that was hatched and raised by Independence and Franklin back in 2008. It turns out that after fledging into the wild from the hacking tower on Douglas Lake, this female Eagle decided to return to the Pigeon Forge area 4 years later with her mate to build their first nest. The AEF has named her ‘Lady Independence,’ in honor of her mother.
The AEF has released 135 eaglets into the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountain since 1992, and nearly 400 have been released statewide since 1980.
About the American Eagle Foundation
The American Eagle Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to care for, restore and protect the USA’ s living symbol of freedom, the Bald Eagle, and other birds of prey. The AEF is celebrating its 30th year of carrying out its mission through Education, Repopulation , Conservation, & Rehabilitation. It is headquartered at the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, TN. Learn more at www.eagles.org