Zoo-Hatched Eaglet Now Flying Free

The Birmingham Zoo recently gave possession of a newly hatched baby bald eagle to Governor Bob Riley, who then charged the Department of Conservation’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division to prepare it for release into the wild.

On June 16, 2004, the bird was transported to a 30-foot-tall hacking tower on Corps of Engineers property in Lowndes County, where it has been observed and fed twice daily by Department and Corps of Engineers employees. The hacking tower simulates the elevation of bald eagle nests in the wild and is located in suitable habitat for survival. As it develops, the young eaglet will imprint on its geographical area. Special feeding methods are used that shield the eaglet from associating the food with humans.

The eaglet has been eating and progressing in development. On July 6 the cage was opened to allow the young eagle to venture out. After a week of flying free, the bird has periodically returned to the tower, indicating that it is, as wildlife biologists had hoped, imprinting on the area. Feedings will continue daily for approximately two more weeks as the bird continues to adjust to flying free and hunting on its own.

Now that the eagle has fledged, wildlife officials hope that it will return annually to the same geographic area to nest. This will occur when the bird reaches sexual maturity, approximately five years of age.

For more information on bald eagles and birding in Alabama visit www.outdooralabama.com.