From the moment he hatched on May 3, 2018 through every stage of development, Valor was a perfect young eaglet. Safe and secure in the nest atop a Tulip Poplar tree, we saw only a clear road ahead and an eventual successful fledge. Food was plentiful, Mr. President and The First Lady were skilled and devoted parents, and sibling rivalry wasn’t a major problem. But an unseen danger came calling.
A cherished memory of our beloved eagle family—Mr. President, The First Lady, Victory & Valor
We received the necropsy report on August 21, and the findings confirm several things: First, Valor was indeed male. Second, West Nile Virus had caused severe softening and swelling in one area of his brain, which accounts for his neurological symptoms. Some evidence of parasites in the gastrointestinal tract was found, but this is very common in wild birds, and in this case, likely had little to no effect on his condition. Finally, tests for Influenza A as well as multiple toxins were negative. The CDC website states: “West Nile virus is transmitted to birds through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected by biting infected birds. Some birds that are predators (such as hawks and owls) or scavengers (such as crows) may become infected after eating sick or dead birds that were already infected with West Nile virus.”
Valor first fell from a branch on the nest tree on early Thursday morning (1:00 a.m. EST), July 26, and was discovered “waterlogged” on the ground later Thursday morning, according to DOEE wildlife biologist Dan Rauch.
Valor was found waterlogged on the ground July26. Photo by Sue Greeley.
After Valor’s spill, he was spotted standing on the ground near the nest tree. Later Valor was observed flying beautifully up into a Sycamore tree, only to disappear again on Friday night. This time, Valor was not found in the Arboretum. Rauch said that’s when they began to worry and search for the eaglet.
On Friday, July 27, Valor had moved into the area of the primary perching tree and was at least 70 feet up with Mr. President perched nearby.
On Monday, July 30, Rauch heard some calls near the border of the Arboretum that might have been Valor, but couldn’t find anything when he searched the area. A few hours later, calls began coming into the Arboretum from concerned D.C residents just a few streets from the nest. Rauch, who was nearby, went to the scene. And there was Valor, sitting on the sidewalk. Rauch said he approached Valor calmly and made “Osprey-noises,” which Valor responded to. Once Valor was calm, Rauch was able to sit up close to him. Animal Control Officer Ted Deppner of the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA) assisted in catching him. The HRA posted a video on Monday of their team transporting Valor to City Wildlife. Outwardly, there were no signs of injuries, but it was observed that Valor was thin and his prognosis “guarded.” Valor was moved to Tri State Bird Rescue and Research in Delaware August 2. Tri State reported that the eaglet was in very poor condition, was anemic and underweight with developmental issues. Tri State’s update on August 6 revealed that Valor’s condition showed no improvement and the prognosis remained guarded. On August 7, Tri State made the determination that subjecting Valor to further treatment, handling, and captivity and prolonging the eaglet’s suffering would have been inhumane and contrary to their principles as wildlife rehabilitators. Valor was humanely euthanized on August 7.
Our Mods, Cam Operators, and Event Chroniclers Remember Valor
Dear, sweet Valor. Your name means “great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle.” Although you only spent 96 days on this earth, you have touched the lives of so many. You lived up to your name and will live in our hearts forever. “Soar your wings high in the heavenly sky.” ~ BethAdler_AEF
“Valor was stealth, shifty and sweet. He was a perfectionist, like MrP and Liberty, he was careful, cautious, and thorough. I remember him watching the wind, letting it catch him and lift him up and glide him back to the nest, with no effort on his part. He was going to soar, I just knew his fledge was going to be a perfect soar up, up and away.” ~ DLoebel2016_AEF
“Valor, you were so loved even before creation. Awaiting an egg, then hatching then the first look at the fuzzy hatchling. You grew and thrived, learning to be stealth and creative to hold your ground with Victory. So much like your previous sibling Liberty to me and I couldn’t wait to see you perfect the snatch and go technique. Your stole my heart as you became more independent and at the end won the food challenges. I can still see you perched on your favorite rails in the nest, and your cute beak kisses with Victory. Though you aren’t out there soaring the area with Victory, you had a greater purpose for all of us. You were and will continue to be loved and never forgotten! ” ~ Pwhite_AEF
“No bird can fly without opening it’s wings, and no one can live without exposing their hearts.” – Mark Napo ~ EagleEyeLynn_AEF ”Valor, what can we say about that sweet eaglet, he may have been the “Underdog” being the youngest, But he learned that when it was time to eat, and Victory would let him know that he had to wait, Valor played it smooth, would act like as if he wasn’t paying attention, Victory would be so into getting food, and wouldn’t notice that Valor was really smooth stepping around TFL, Then before you knew what happened Valor was between Mom’s feet and would steal not just a bite, no, but the whole fish, while both parent and Victory just looked around wondering what just happened to their food, Then when Victory realized Valor stole the fish, Valor would run with it and not let Victory get it……That’s one thing about Valor I’ll always remember, being the youngest but learned fast how to steal food and get his share. Valor definitely stole our hearts for the short time with us. ” ~ Nick_AEF
“How rare and precious is the wild soul breaking the rhythm of our humble humanity, reminding us that what we love is only on loan for a short while. Thank you for being, Valor. Soar far and free. ” ~ Raven13_AEF
“Valor, your time with us here on earth may have been short, but in that time you managed to carve out a place in my heart and nestle yourself right on in. This was not the ending any of us envisioned and my heart hurts over your loss. But I have wonderful memories of you that I will cherish always, and those will help ease my pain. There is a song by Trisha Yearwood, titled ‘I Would’ve Loved You Anyway’, about the loss of a relationship. I think these lyrics sum up how I feel.
If I’d known the way that this would end If I’d read the last page first If I’d had the strength to walk away If I’d known how this would hurt I Would’ve Loved You Anyway
Fly high and free for all eternity, sweet Valor.” ~ CherylNV_AEF
“My last, happiest memory of Valor occurred five days before Valor’s fledge and, of course, it was raining. Victory and Valor stood perched together on the lateral branch for a very long time, like bookends, in harmony and almost as one. Thus is how I will remember our precious Valor, as his spirit lives on in Victory.
5:30 PM, July 21:
“We knew we loved Valor even before hatch, but who could’ve guessed we would grow to love him even more?? I am thankful to have had the opportunity to watch this special eaglet grow and develop that cute personality, and as a cam op, it was a privilege to share his progress and beauty with everyone. I will never forget the adorable early morning antics between Victory & Valor, when Victory would lovingly pester Valor, like human siblings do. Whether Victory was allopreening Valor, picking at Valor’s feet, etc., it always made me smile. Meal time was also entertaining as we cheered for Valor when he became a stealthy eaglet, going under and around The First Lady to get food. How many times did we all yell, “Way to go!” when he swooped in and grabbed the fish before Victory had a clue!? Countless happy times! What I will remember most, though, was that sparkle in his eye that showed that spunky personality. Valor left us way too soon, but I’m happy to have gotten to witness his sweet life, and his memory is emblazoned on my heart forever. ” ~ Sparkyc_AEF
“I have looked through so many photos of you, Valor—we were asked to come up with one of our favorites–well that is so hard–they are all my favorites—but I did find one that for me shows your precious personality—you always were curious as to your surroundings, checking out every detail, you had a calmness about you although you were very vocal—you brought me so many smiles whenever I checked on you whether it was early in the mornings or late at night—the picture I chose of you was taken on July 9, 2018 and you were looking right at the cam with that most precious face of yours—I will always have memories of you in my heart. Love you forever.” kclark1_AEF
If I give you this one thought to keep- I am with you still – I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush, I am the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone – I am with you still – in each new dawn. Unknown
“Little Valor, you brought such joy, I am so happy that I had the opportunity to watch you grow into a mighty eagle. We will never forget your spirit, you were such a machiavellian! Fast and cunning – you made those grabs and learned where to be to get the meals all to yourself, it was marvelous to witness! This was not the fate any of us would have chose for you, but your life was not in vain, you taught us all so much. Fly free little one!” ~ Clawpaw_AEF
“My most cherished moments were in the early morning hours as Valor and Victory would lie cuddling together, basking in the golden sun. Their playful interactions and silly antics always put a smile on my face and a tug at my heart. The endearing way they looked at each other with that cute little tilt of their head, the tug o war with the sticks and bones, the way they would pull on each other’s feathers even though the other one wasn’t always thrilled about it and oh, those sweet beak kisses. There were times when it was hard to tell them apart, yes, even for us volunteers. But there was one way we could always know for sure who it was. Just listen for the sweet melody of Valor’s squeals. He was such a chatterbox, he loved to serenade us with his sweet songs early in the morning, his squees echoing throughout the Arboretum. Oh my was he loud! It was so wonderful to wake up and hear those sounds. Always music to my ears. Thank you little one for all of these special memories and so much more. You have touched so many lives. Soar high and free and squee loud with the angels. You are forever in my heart.” ~ earlybird_AEF
“Rather than an event, for me, it’s more about the sweet eagle spirit who we named Valor. What made Valor so special and such an endearing character was an easy going nature, how s/he always went with the flow and never fussed about the small stuff. When I think of Valor as a little glossy puff of white fluff, I think of how MrP covered both eaglets up on more than one occasion. Digging little potted plant type holes in the nest and then covering them with moss and grasses to keep them warm and protected. A couple times Valor completely disappeared from sight, but that never seemed to be a concern, soon enough Valor would pop back up for a feeding or to wander about the nest. I loved watching Victory and Valor’s friendship grow. I envision Valor lying in the nest, with one leg sprawled and stretched outward like royalty, claiming comfort and space, and Victory’s open wing stretched out over the top of Valor. I can still see them snuggling and beak kissing. How I loved watching them beak to beak staring into one another’s eyes, tilting their heads sideways and checking each other out. And the adorable games with sticks, as they’d pass the same stick back and forth, wrangling and moving it about the nest. Valor’s chill nature was particularly tested the day Victory was having a blast wingercizing around the nest and not paying attention (which s/he regularly did). Victory accidentally landed on Valor’s back and almost pushed Valor out the V. Valor just shook it off once balance was regained and carried on as if nothing had happened. But Valor also had a particular way to get back at Victory whether it was meant as pay back or not. Valor seemed to have a thing for tongues and it took me by surprise when I watched Valor nip and pull at Victory’s tongue more than once. I’d never seen that trick before and to this day, it makes me laugh. So many memories. So much love. How could I possibly choose one? All that’s left is to say, thank you, Valor. Thank you for being such a beautiful spirit. For filling our hearts with love and joy just by being you. May we all be better human beings through the grace of your presence. I am eternally grateful and will hold you in my heart, forever and always. Miss you, little buddy.” ~ freebird_AEF
Valor broke through the egg and said, “Here I am, everyone!” Oh yes, you sure were, little one. Those cute pink feet, the tiny beak and big eyes. Valor grabbed our hearts right out of the shell. As Valor grew and his/her personality started to shine, it was apparent s/he had a little bit of his/her older siblings in him/her. The feistiness of Freedom, the inquisitiveness of Liberty, the calmness of Honor and the vocal cords like Glory. Such a firecracker. A little warrior through and through. I think Valor was such a fortunate eaglet to have Mr. P and TFL as parents. They nurtured Valor every step of the way and never faltered with the love they had for him/her. For the short time Valor was here on earthy, I’d like to think that s/he was given the best life an eaglet could possibly have. There are not enough words to describe how hearts are breaking near and far for this devastating loss. Valor came into our lives and flew away with our hearts. Valor, you will never be forgotten. You blessed us and we will always have the memories to look back on. ~ FreeSoars_AEF
“The moment that Valor came out of the egg, I knew he would be my favorite. Valor’s personality was quiet, reserved, strong, and impressively brilliant! She/he was an underdog from the get-go and that is why I fell more in love with him/her as he/she stole my heart. I distinctly remember the day it was raining, 6/3/2018. TFL had left the nest and we all got a glimpse of Valor and Victory. I was on Cams and for the first time, saw Valor shiver and he/she would not stop shivering. Valor was soooo cold! But I saw Valor endure the cold and pull him/herself completely under TFL and tuck in to stay warm. Victory was pushed to the outside and was receiving most of the rain. As I zoomed in, I saw Valor’s talons holding TFL’s talons and Victory’s. It looked like a mesh of talons. I knew, at that moment, that Valor would be warm enough and be okay through the cold, wet rain. Valor completely captured my heart. He/she was the eaglet I fell in love with! Valor, fly high!” ~ Bird-Seer_AEF
This season, before we lost Valor, there was another young eaglet named Flyer, who had just fledged and was barely beginning to learn to soar. Flyer was from the Dayton, Ohio nest of Jim and Cindy (now Jim and Hope)— and many of our viewers know this nest and have followed Jim Weller’s blog post about Jim and Cindy / Hope. Triumphs and tragedies are not limited to one nest, and when Flyer was killed while flying too low across a busy highway, Jim remembered a poem he had penned a decade ago when his eagles, Jim & Cindy, had lost their eaglets. With Flyer’s tragic death, Jim brought the poem back for us. He also wanted to honor Valor, and has given permission for us to reprint it here.
The Eagles Grief by Jim Weller
On feathered wings of majestic grace They soar o’re the River Mad Untethered from all earthly bonds, Their freedom makes hearts glad. They claimed their home when autumn leaves Blazed in radiant glory. Midst winter’s snow they added on To their nest and Dayton’s story. (Amidst this world of trials There is an awesome thing That fills a heart with smiles: An Eagle’s soaring wings!) We watched their tender nurturing Of the new eggs in their care Then we watched their gentle rearing Of their precious, feathered pair. Hope abounds and grows each day For the young life in the nest… But hope is dashed when that fragile life Does not survive the test. Yet high aloft again they soar For life goes on you see, And with the dawn of each new morn Comes opportunity. Disappointments, sorrows, Won’t weigh these eagles down For those are bonds that fetter And chain man to the ground. Again they soar and hunt and play Across the azure blue, And scream a song of challenge Earthward to me and you. “Life is hard and troubles come, But here’s an awesome thing… God can free from anchoring pain, And let your heart take wing!” So when storms and trials buffet And days seem dark and long, Remember the hope and promise In the screaming eagle’s song. Release your weighty burdens, You need carry them no more For God can loose those heavy chains And free your heart to soar!