ISAIAH: Species: Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Bald Eagle • Born: 1988 • Gender: Male
Disability: Missing one eye
MRS. JEFFERSON: Species: Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Bald Eagle • Born: 1989 • Gender: Female
Disability: Blind in one eye, amputated hallux
‘Isaiah’ and ‘Mrs. Jefferson’ are permanently disabled, non-releasable Bald Eagles that were transferred to the American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to be forever cared for.
They have hatched and raised numerous young as a part of the AEF’s Captive Breeding and Hacking programs. Mrs. Jefferson laid her first egg in 2012, and both parents participated in the successful rearing of an Eaglet, which was later released into the wild in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains on Douglas Lake.
Both of these Eagles were originally placed in the ‘Pick-a-Mate’ section of Eagle Mountain Sanctuary at Dollywood—Isaiah in 1991 and Mrs. Jefferson in 2000.
In 2011, AEF staff noticed nesting activity in the Pick-a-Mate enclosure, but at first the two eagles could not be positively identified. After closer observation, it was noticed that one eagle had only one eye, and was identified as Isaiah. Using binoculars, a staff member tried to positively identify the female that was with Isaiah, and dark markings under the eyes, along with two leg bands, tentatively identified her as Mrs. Jefferson.
In November 2011 during the annual physicals given to the eagles in Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, the last bird to be examined was the female that had been seen with Isaiah. Positive identification was made. Mrs. Jefferson and Isaiah were given their own nest and placed into a private enclosure in Eagle Mountain Sanctuary.
In 2014, this pair was featured on the AEF’s Live Nest Cam Program. On camera, viewers could tell the pair apart by the fact that Isaiah is actually missing an eye, whereas Mrs. Jefferson has both eyes, but can only see out of one.
Isaiah is a male Bald Eagle from Missouri that was injured by a shotgun in 1988. One of the pellets destroyed his left eye. He has all of his flight capabilities, but is missing his left eye. Isaiah arrived at the American Eagle Foundation’s education, breeding and rehabilitation center in Pigeon Forge, TN in 1991.
Since Bald Eagles are predators and rely on keen vision for hunting, he would find it difficult to catch prey and survive in the wild. Isaiah was placed in “Eagle Mountain Sanctuary” Pick-a-Mate section at Dollywood in hopes that he would select a mate and raise young that could then be released into the wild.
Mrs. Jefferson is a female Bald Eagle, found standing, but not moving, on a river bank in 2000 by canoers. The canoers captured her and transported her in the canoe with them—a very risky decision on the part of the canoers, as Bald Eagles can be very aggressive. Suffice it to say, they managed to get her to stay in the canoe and bring it (and her) safely to shore.
She was examined, and seemed to be favoring her left wing and left leg. Nothing was broken, but there might have been nerve damage. She was found to be blind in her left eye, resulting from an old injury that might have occurred if she hit the water wrong while diving for a fish.
Since she was blind in one eye, she was deemed non-releasable. She also had an injury to the hallux (back toe) that required its removal. Full use of their feet is necessary for an eagle to be able to catch fish and other prey. Mrs. Jefferson was then put in Eagle Mountain Sanctuary at Dollywood Entertainment Park in Pigeon Forge, TN in hopes that she would select a mate. If that happened, and if young resulted from the mating, the offspring would be released into the wild.
ABOUT BALD EAGLES
Bald Eagles typically mate for life. They will only look for a new mate if their faithful companion dies. Together, they build huge nests known as ‘aeries’ atop tall and strong trees. They make use of twigs, grasses, soft mosses, and feathers in making their nests.
They normally return to the same nest during breeding season, adding new materials to it each year. A new eagle pair’s nest measures about five feet in width and two feet in depth, but as they add to it year after year, it can reach widths of over ten feet and weigh up to a ton or more.