January 18, 2020
By Erica Rymer, Events and Marketing Coordinator
In 1782, the bald eagle was chosen as the U.S.A.’s national emblem because of the species’ strength, longevity and majesty. To this day, bald eagles can be found across the continent, both throughout their native range and in the wallets of many Americans (on the backs of large coins).
Despite their current prosperity, bald eagles have had a difficult past. In the mid-1900s the population began to decrease to the point of endangerment, thanks to unsustainable hunting practices and reproductive failure caused by pesticides (such as DDT). In 1978 bald eagles were granted protection under the Endangered Species Act, leading to hunting bans and the removal of DDT from pesticides. Slowly but surely, these protections helped the population to recover and in 2007 the species was removed from the Endangered Species List.
Though the bald eagle population in their natural habitat has stabilized, individual bald eagles are still threatened by collisions with cars and buildings, habitat loss due to construction and poisoning from poor hunting practices. This is where facilities like the Michigan State University Veterinary Medical Center and the Akron Zoo come in. Many birds who have been injured have found hope through the care and rehabilitation we are able to provide.
One such story comes to us from northern Michigan in 2011, when an intense storm caused a tree to fall, trapping two bald eagles beneath it. When they were found, both birds were taken to the Michigan State University Veterinary Medical Center. Upon closer examination, the first eagle appeared only to have minor injuries and was able to be rehabilitated and released. The second bird, however, sustained serious injuries to his right wing which would require surgery. The doctor, a former Army Ranger, repaired the wing to the best of his ability, but sadly, part of the wing had to be removed. The doctor decided to name the eagle “Petry” after fellow Ranger, Sergeant Petry, who was awarded the congressional medal of honor after sustaining a similar injury to his right arm when he picked up an IED and it exploded in his hand. Without both wings, Petry could no longer fly, and it was determined it would be in his best interest to find a permanent home in human care.
To have a bald eagle in human care, facilities must apply for a permit through US Fish and Wildlife Services. These permits have many restrictions to ensure that the possession of the animal is compatible with his or her preservation. The standards required in the permit ensure that a facility has the proper resources to care for a bald eagle, and that the life of the bald eagle would be improved in this new circumstance. The Akron Zoo applied for this permit in order to participate in the continuing care of bald eagles who are no longer able to survive on their own.
Petry, who is now 8 years old, is one of six bald eagles currently living at the Akron Zoo. He is the one who will interact with his keepers the most, and is the most willing to participate in educational training demonstrations. He can often be seen at the front of his habitat, waiting for guests to stop by.
All of our bald eagles have sustained injuries in their natural habitats that left them unable to fly. However, they don’t let that stop them from living their best lives. Each one has their own unique personality that makes them special!
Lakota, our 27 year old female, and Wayne, our 33 year old female, are the most antisocial of the convocation (or group of eagles). They tend to avoid their keepers and keep mostly to themselves. Lakota can be identified by her yellow band while Wayne can be identified by her black band.
Knox can also be a bit of an introvert at times. He is a male, roughly 23 years old, who can be identified by his red and silver band. He’ll perch in the vicinity of others but generally keeps to himself. He got his name because he was rescued from Knoxville, and he has the deepest vocalizations of any of our bald eagles.
Unity, our 27 year old male, is the smallest of the group and he knows it. He can be identified by his green band.
Spirit is the dominant member of our convocation. She is an 8 year old female who was named for her strong personality, and she is the most vocal of the bunch. She can be identified by her orange band.
Though they all have their own individual personalities, the group still behaves much like other eagles would in their natural habitat, with the exception of flight.
“They still have their ‘pecking order’ to show who is more dominant,” says lead bird keeper Joe Golgosky. “They have certain areas within the habitat they claim as their own when the mood strikes, and we have even seen nesting behaviors within the habitat, though we don’t allow breeding.”
Needless to say, our bald eagles are a pretty mighty bunch! They have overcome difficult circumstances in their natural habitats, but they are living their best lives and helping us share the importance of mindfulness and conservation! If you would like to visit and see if you can identify each eagle for yourself, stop by your Akron Zoo. A portion of the proceeds from every visit helps us support conservation of species like the bald eagle!