Species: Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Bald Eagles • Born: Varied • Gender: Varied • Disability: Varied
Eagle Mountain Sanctuary encompasses 400,000 cubic feet on the side of a very steep, heavily wooded hillside in the Dollywood theme park. The Bald Eagles residing within Eagle Mountain Sanctuary are all permanently physically disabled and would not be able to survive in the wild. These birds are cared for daily by AEF staff who provide fresh water and food and who visually ensure that the Eagles are in good health. They are given full physicals once a year when their enclosures are inspected and renovated.
Eagle Mountain Sanctuary is divided into five compartments. Several contain nesting pairs (which can be adopted separately). The largest enclosure is called the ‘Pick a Mate’ section. It is the home of eligible bachelor and bachelorettes Eagles —all with physical disabilities but with at least partial flight ability. The smallest enclosure is located on level ground separate from the main exhibit, and Eagles who have little to no flight ability (wing amputations) live in this naturally landscaped enclosure. Many of our Bald Eagle breeding pairs throughout the years have resulted from two Eagles from these sections choosing each other as mates, at which point they are given their own private enclosure with the hope that they will reproduce and raise Eaglets that will be released into the wild.
These are the residents of Pick-a-Mate and a few of their stories:
All photos ©2019 American Eagle Foundation.
Updated March 14, 2019
Born: We think about 1993
Ankle Band #:
Around 1993, Aquila was treated for a right shoulder gunshot wound. He was very young, likely a newly-fledged bird. Limited flight left him unreleasable. He spent time as an education bird at Raptor Rehab of Kentucky, then in July 2017 was transferred to AEF.
Ankle Band #: SB (Orange)
Origin: Treasure Coast Wildlife (Florida)
In March 2012 this eagle was treated for an injury to the right wing tip and a damaged right eye (blind). Barbosa was transferred to AEF from Treasure Coast Wildlife in Florida in August 2016.
Ankle Band #: RS (Orange)
Origin: San Francisco, California
‘Faithful’ was bonded to another non-releasable Bald Eagle named ‘Peace’ and they both lived in a large private aviary at the American Eagle Foundation. They hatched and raised numerous young as a part of the AEF’s Captive Breeding and Hacking programs.
Unfortunately, Peace passed away in 2016. Faithful was moved to Pick-a-Mate to reside with our other non-releasable Bald Eagles.
This pair was already bonded when they were transferred to the American Eagle Foundation from the San Francisco Zoo in 2007. In a ceremony honoring fallen soldiers, these two Eagles, along with three other non-releasable Bald Eagle breeding pairs were named by the families of these brave soldiers.
Peace was named in honor Sgt. Alfred Siler. Faithful was named in honor of Cpl. Rusty Washam.
In 2007, the American Eagle Foundation was chosen by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to receive four Bald Eagle breeding pairs from the San Francisco Zoo to care, originally it was to be five pairs, however one mate passed away prior to the transfer. The living mate of the pair is now a educational eagle.
These pairs were part of the San Francisco Zoo’s captive-breeding program. These regal birds had previously hatched numerous young eaglets, which were placed in wild nests located on the Channel Islands—as part of a Bald Eagle recovery project located off the coast of Los Angeles. The zoo concluded its successful breeding program after re-introducing more than 100 young Bald Eagles into the wild.
Accompanied by AEF President Al Cecere and Julia Cecere, the Eagle pairs flew over America—from San Francisco to Knoxville—on the wings of a special FedEx cargo jet on June 18 and 19 2007. After a physical check-up by University of Tennessee veterinarians, these eagles were placed into their new aviary homes in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Born: 2002 or 2003
Disability: Arthritic Shoulder (Poor flight)
Ankle Band #: PX (Orange)
“Grace” formally known as “Boots” went to the Wildfowl Trust of North America (WTNA) in May 2003 from the Baltimore Zoo hospital. She was a first year eagle when she had been found down on the ground with such bad arthritis in both shoulders that she was not able to get more than a 5 foot lift or sustain flight beyond 50 feet. She had maintained a healthy weight and no other medical problems until after March 2006. In July 2006 she was sent to Wildlife Rescue in Maryland after a volunteer noticed she “looked bad.” Upon arrival she was found with massive weight loss, anemia, bilateral bumble foot, internal and external parasites (feather mites/lice), and a massive abrasion of her cere that was infected. These were successfully treated over the next 6 months and she was sent back to the WTNA with a healthy weight. In April 2007, she was returned to Wildlife Rescue again with weight loss, anemia, bilateral bumble foot, and a massive infected abrasion of her cere. Her demeanor was depressed. Six months later she completely recovered and she, along with another male Bald Eagle from Wildlife Rescue, were transferred to the American Eagle Foundation to be placed into Eagle Mountain Sanctuary.
Disability: Left Wing Injury as a result of possible gunshot wound
Ankle Band #: RE (Orange)
Origin: Hamblen County, TN
“Hamilton” came to the AEF as an adult Bald Eagle. He was brought to the University of Tennessee Avian and Zoological Medicine on March 28th 2013 after being found in Hamblen County, TN. Physical examination and radiographs revealed a chronic fracture of the left ulna with some involvement of the elbow joint. Four pellets were noted within the body suggesting that the eagle may have been a gunshot victim. The Eagle was transferred to the American Eagle Foundation the following day, and then returned to UT on 24 May 2013 for reevaluation of the left wing and elbow joint, which appeared swollen. The joint contained a significant amount of fluid, some of which was aspirated and submitted for culture. The Eagle received medications for pain relief and antibiotics pending culture results, and returned again on 10 October 2013 for evaluation of the left wing. Again fluid was present within the joint. Radiographs confirmed swelling of the joint but also indicated damage to the radial and humeral bones at the joint and degenerative joint disease of the elbow. Repeat culture of the joint fluid did not reveal any bacteria. Subsequent to the recheck examination the joint appeared to be less swollen. Although Hamilton can fly, the chronic nature and severity of his joint disease made him an extremely poor candidate for release with any reasonable expectation that he would survive, thus he was placed permanently into his new home!
Disability: Wing Injury
Ankle Band #: RD Orange
Origin: Boise, Idaho
‘Hope’ came to the American Eagle Foundation at approximately one year of age from the Tish Raptor Rehab Center of Boise Idaho. This young Eagle had been found injured and taken there for help. Her wing had broken between the elbow and shoulder and an operation was performed to hold it together. The break was very bad and she was not expected to recover. She had many complications and eventually was brought to The American Eagle Foundation (AEF) in June of 2001. Dr. Ryan, a veterinarian used by the AEF, had to perform another operation to replace the pin in her wing. Hope had a rough convalescence over a period of several months and it was uncertain if she would live. Due to the severity of her injury and extended recovery, she was deemed permanently disabled and could not fly or survive in the wild. Hope was placed in the Dollywood theme park Eagle Sanctuary in Pigeon Forge, TN, in the Pick-a-Mate section where is doing well!
The name, Hope, symbolizes the struggles, which can be overcome, even when the odds are against you.
Disability: Injury to Left Patagium (limited range of motion)
Ankle Band #: PU (Orange)
Origin: Wildlife Center of Virginia
‘Kathy’ was admitted to the Wildlife Center as an adult on February 9th, 2007. On initial presentation, the bird had a large open laceration on the left patagium; the membrane on the leading edge of the wing. The wound healed, however, as a result of the injury the patagial ligament has constricted thus restricting full range of motion on the left wing. She was transferred to the American Eagle Foundation to live in her new home at Eagle Mountain Sanctuary. She recovered well and, despite her limited flight ability, is very strong and feisty!
Disability: Left Wing-tip Injury
Ankle Band #: RX (Orange)
Origin: Wildlife Center of Virginia
King George came to us in September 2015 as an adult from Wildlife Center of Virginia. He was found injured on August 2nd, 2013 in King George County, Virginia. Due to a traumatic event, his left wing tip was partially amputated, resulting in impaired flight ability.
Mr. Roosevelt (“Roo”)
Disability: Injuries to left foot and elbow.
Ankle Band #: RB (Orange)
Mr. Roosevelt was presented to the American Eagle Foundation and subsequently to the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center on June 2, 2011 for evaluation. Mr. Roosevelt originated in Arkansas and the rehabilitator there believed that the Eagle was non-releasable. The veterinarian’s examination revealed injuries to the left foot, wrist and elbow. Injuries to the foot and wrist were resolved, but the elbow became a chronic problem. Mr. Roosevelt was treated several times with antibiotics and the joint improved; however, it became apparent that Mr. Roosevelt wouldn’t be able to fly well enough to be released back into the wild and was transferred to American Eagle Foundation November 2011.
He was placed in the PAM section and bonded with Eleanor. In 2016, the American Eagle Foundation found two eggs that were laid on the ground in Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, and the eggs were taken to the American Eagle Foundation’s incubation room. One eaglet hatched but unfortunately didn’t make it past its second week.
Later that year, the pair was moved into its own breeding enclosure with its own manmade nest in order to properly mate and raise young!
In 2017, the pair successfully hatched and raised two eaglets! They became the stars of the Dollywood Eagle Cams project, impressing thousands of viewers with their impressive first-time parenting skills.
Sadly on Jan. 17, 2018, Eleanor (Ellie) was found deceased from unknown causes in the aviary, and Mr. Roosevelt was placed back in PAM in hopes he will find another mate.
Disability: Abnormal Feather Growth (inhibited flight)
Ankle Band #: PV (Orange)
Origin: Wildlife Center of Virginia
‘Virginia’ experienced permanent injuries which prevented its release back into the wild. This bird was admitted to the Wildlife Center of Virginia on May 18, 2010 after being seen running through a field unable to fly. On initial physical exam and radiographs there were no abnormalities found with the exception of many broken feathers on the right wing. It was given time to grow feathers, however the feathers remained abnormal on the right wing. Bacterial and fungal cultures were performed of the feather follicles, as well as systemic blood work and multiple repeat physical exams and radiographs. No abnormalities were evident with the exception of pinched feather follicles appreciated on radiographs and grossly visible when a feather falls out. This could be indicative of a past West Nile Virus infection; however, it is not possible to definitively diagnose this. Due to this abnormal feather growth, the WCVA, Virginia was deemed a non-releasable Eagle, as it is unable to fly well enough to fend for itself in the wild. Virginia was transferred to the American Eagle Foundation in February 2011 and now lives in Eagle Mountain Sanctuary.
ABOUT THIS SPECIES
Bald Eagles were placed at the center of the Great Seal of the United States in 1782! Since then, they have served as the pride of America’s skies and the symbol of all that America stands for.
Bald Eagles obviously aren’t bald! “Bald” in this sense refers to an old English word that means “white headed.” When eagles fledge the nest at between 10 and 13 weeks of age, they are primarily all brown. An Eagle gets its full white head and tail feathers and yellow beak and eyes at around four to five years of age.
Bald Eagles typically mate for life. Usually, they will only look for a new mate if their faithful companion dies, but sometimes a new mate is chosen in a territorial fight over a nest.
In building a nest, Bald Eagles will choose a ‘super-canopy’ tree—one rising above the rest— near to water, with sturdy limbs and a commanding view of the surrounding terrain. Typical nest heights are 50-125 feet high. They make use of twigs, grasses, soft mosses and feathers in making their nests and normally return to the same nest each year during breeding season and add new materials to it. A new eagle pair’s nest usually measures about five feet in width and two feet in depth. As they add to it year after year, however, it can reach widths of over ten feet and weigh up to a ton or more. On the Channel Islands, where large trees are very scarce, Bald Eagles have built their nests on cliffs; and, in some coastal areas of Alaska and Canada where there are few tall trees, Bald Eagles will nest on the ground, using whatever materials are available.
Learn More About Eagles HERE.