FRANKLIN: Species: Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Bald Eagle  •  Born: Unknown   •  Gender: Male
Disability: Shot in left wing, can’t fly.

INDEPENDENCE: Species: Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Bald Eagle •  Born: 1994   •  Gender: Female
Disability: Shot in left wing, can’t fly.

‘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. Approximately two dozen other Bald Eagles reside in Eagle Mountain Sanctuary as well.

In 2017, their aviary compartment sustained damage from two successive storms, felling trees, and damaging their nest structure.  In addition, it had become increasingly apparent that Independence was having difficulty navigating the steep terrain in the aviary. As stated above, she had been shot in her left wing before she came to the AEF, and over time, the disability made it harder for her to get up and down the mountain.  Independence and Franklin were moved into a spacious nesting and flying area at the AEF National Eagle Center in Pigeon Forge, where they are now living comfortably.

While living on Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, Indy and Frank hatched and raised numerous young as a part of the AEF’s Captive Breeding and Hacking programs. Their first year in their own enclosure resulted in no eggs. In April 2002, they laid their first two eggs and took turns incubating them. One of the eggs proved to be infertile, but  the other hatched on May 9. The eaglet was a healthy one, and  Franklin and Independence proved to be good parents. The eaglet was raised and cared for by them for about eight weeks.

As of 2017, Independence and Franklin have successfully raised 26 eaglets which were all released from our hack tower on Douglas Lake (25 of those eaglets were biological offspring of Frank & Indy, while one of them was a foster eaglet named “Miracle”). The pair also laid 4 eggs which were hatched and raised by another pair at the AEF, three of which successfully fledged from our hack tower.

Learn about AEF’s Captive Breeding and Hacking program!

This Bald Eagle pair became world famous due to the high definition video cams that streamed their nesting activities while they resided on Eagle Mountain Sanctuary.  Tens of thousands of visitors enjoyed this ‘virtual reality show.’ A moderated chat was also provided during nesting season, hosted by the AEF’s experienced and friendly moderators who enhanced the experience and help educate all who stayed and chatted. The AEF appreciates its dedicated mods and remote camera operators, who knew all of Indy and Frank’s favorite places as well as their ‘Watering Hole’ and ‘Dining Room Table’ where food was delivered daily by AEF caregivers.


As a juvenile Bald Eagle, Independence was shot in her left wing in Alaska in 1994. A rehabilitation facility in Alaska had operated on her wing, but the wing tip never healed properly. As a result, she could not fly well enough to survive in the wild.

Independence was less than a year old when she arrived at American Eagle Foundation headquarters on May 28, 1994. At that time, her wounds were still fresh and an infection had set in. This condition required rehabilitation and recovery time to heal and regain her strength.

For the first two months, Independence was housed in a quarantine enclosure at the AEF’s off-park bird care facility. Later, she was moved to the AEF’s Eagle Mountain Sanctuary Pick-a-Mate aviary located on the Dollywood entertainment park. For many years she lived inside Eagle Mountain Sanctuary in a private compartment on the Dollywood park with her mate, Franklin. Independence now resides at the National Eagle Center in Pigeon Forge with Franklin, where they enjoy a spacious enclosure with an artificial nest and room to fly.


Franklin was shot on April 2, 1995 in Seward, Alaska. His left wing tip was hit by the bullet, causing extensive damage. The wing tip had to be amputated, leaving him in a compromised condition flight-wise. Although Franklin is able to fly in his enclosure, he cannot fly well enough to survive in the wild.

Franklin, named after Ben Franklin,  arrived at American Eagle Foundation headquarters in Pigeon Forge, TN on May 23, 1995, a year after his future mate, Independence, had arrived. At first,  Franklin  lived with a group of other Bald Eagles housed in the AEF’s Eagle Mountain Sanctuary Pick-a-Mate  aviary located on the Dollywood entertainment park. He now resides with Independence in a spacious compartment at the National Eagle Center in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Frequently Asked Questions about this Nesting Pair and their offspring.


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.