Resident Bird Bios

Some of the birds that are rescued and turned into DVRC for treatment, unfortunately, cannot return to the wild. They may stay at DVRC as foster parents for orphaned baby raptors or they may be used in the center's efforts to educate the public. In the case of our osprey, a species hard to keep alive in captivity as they are often too stressed to eat, she sets an example for any newly admitted osprey so that they will eat. Some of the stories of these birds follow. We stress that even though we have given names to these raptors and may be familiar with handling by our staff members, they are wild animals and not tamed pets. Read on...


Golden Eagle vs. Train

Golden Eagle
1981 - 2005

Golden Eagles . . .

For more information on Golden Eagles see Raptor Profiles.


In 1985, a call was placed that saved the life of one of the most magnificent animals found on earth. It was a golden eagle and she was on the ground, unable to fly. The call had been made by the engineer on a train in Montana. He had seen this particular eagle many times before because she had picked up a peculiar habit, that of hopping trains. Energy conservation is of utmost importance for raptors since many die of starvation each year. The more energy spent trying to catch food, the less that particular item adds to the bird’s energy store. Therefore, raptors have evolved various techniques to reduce their energy loss. For example, bald eagles often skip a day of hunting when there is no wind, waiting for a more windy day to let the air currents carry them to the lake to catch a fish and back up to a tree to eat it. In this way, they do not have to flap as much, which would mean using more of their own energy to propel themselves. Ospreys carry their fish so that it is parallel to their direction of flight, creating less drag as they fly to a perch to eat. DVRC’s resident golden eagle found her own way to save energy. She got a ride, not on wind currents, but on a train that could cover 80 miles an hour with her having to do nothing more than hold on and balance. The train offered another benefit; it scared up prey for her, namely rabbits eating along the tracks. For all the speed, power, and hunting prowess of a golden eagle, the rabbit is also adapted to its lifestyle, that of eating whenever possible and running from predators whenever necessary. For a rabbit to live very long, it must also be good at what it does, and it is fast, can jump, zig and zag, and find its way to a hole in a very short period of time, most often quickly enough to avoid the talons of neighboring goldens. In fact, a golden eagle in the desert probably makes a kill one out of every 6 times it tries. Add a train to the picture, though, and the statistics shift.

Riding on the train, the eagle watches for a rabbit frightened by the oncoming train. The rabbit, forced to move, breaks its cover. The rabbit heads away from the train and the eagle spreads her wings and launches herself from the train, with her forward momentum already fueled by the train. The rabbit, consumed with fear of the train, may not realize that a golden is descending upon it. Regardless, the rabbit now has two threats. In any panic or fractional time of indecision, it might make just the wrong move and that is what the eagle is counting on. In fact, it had happened just that way so often that this eagle had made it a practice to ride trains, or at least this train because the engineer had seen her hunt this way repeatedly. He had nicknamed her Hobo. Unfortunately, one day, the eagle made her own wrong move and did not get clear of the train in time. She was struck by the train and landed on the ground, basically in the middle of nowhere. The engineer’s timing was perfect though as he just happened to see the accident. He made an unscheduled stop of his train so that he could call someone to pick her up.

She was taken to Judy Hoy, a rehabilitator in Montana, who found soft tissue damage to the eagle’s right wing -- most damaging, a severed extensor tendon. Without that tendon, she could no longer extend her wing. She was now and forever unflighted. Hobo was then placed at the Delaware Valley Raptor Center to be used in education programs. However, before she began her career as one of the most captivating and awe-inspiring of DVRC’s feathered educational staff, her name was changed to Crystal (derived from the golden eagle’s Latin name, Aquila chrysaetos). Anyone having laid eyes on her glory would know that Hobo was not befitting to her. Although obviously an all too risky way to make a living, Crystal had shown her exceptional nature and, for a while, was probably a record setter among goldens.

Click here to see note about Crystal's passing.


A Poisoned Eagle

Bald Eagle
King Frederick II calling
1983 - 2000

Bald Eagles . . .

For more information on Bald Eagles see Raptor Profiles.


In 1985, DVRC received a two year old bald eagle. The bird was designated unreleasable by the federal government due to central nervous system(CNS) damage and was then placed at DVRC to be trained for use in our education programs.

Duck hunters were pumping tons of lead into wetlands every year using lead shot. Lead, when ingested by human and eagle alike, does brain and CNS damage. Hunters who struck, but could not retrieve their targets left injured or dead ducks loaded with poison in the environment. In addition, all of the shot that missed its target, then fell into the water became available to bottom feeding waterfowl who ate the lead shot along with whatever they were aiming to scoop up. These birds also succumbed to lead poisoning and would be found by scavengers, such as eagles, either sick or dead. Considering the fact that most raptors die in their first year (a great many from starvation), conserving energy by scavenging instead of chasing prey can make a difference of survival. Easy prey, then, attracts eagles who eat the ducks along with the lead and, over time, build up high enough levels of lead in their blood to do irreparable damage. If rescued in time, a poisoned bird can undergo a drug therapy to bind up any lead remaining in their system and prevent it from int eracting. But the CNS damage, nerve damage, cannot be repaired.

King Frederick II was one of the lucky eagles to be found before he reached deadly levels of lead poisoning. Although he can fly, he cannot use his right leg and foot well, is uncoordinated at landing and, without both feet, cannot successfully hunt. King Frederick is an exceptional education bird with his large size and animated personality. He lives with Crystal, DVRC's resident golden eagle, eating fish and rats, as well as the occasional roadkill provided by the PA Game Commission. Infrequently, he displays one of the well known characteristics of bald eagles, that of thievery, and will leave his own food to steal Crystal's. Otherwise, the two eagles have bonded over their thirteen years together in a flight enclosure built for them, and for eagles in rehab.


Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle enclosure
King Frederick II's and Crystal's enclosure

In 1992, the U.S. government banned the use of lead shot for duck hunting, partly as a result of pressure from duck hunters lobbying to protect their prey populations. Lead still remains in the environment and is still introduced by broken fishing lines with lead sinkers. Fishing line itself introduces an entirely different but just as deadly threat faced by bald eagles and waterfowl on a regular basis.

Sadly, Christmas Eve of 2000, with no signs of illness, Freddy died suddenly and unexpectedly. The cause of death is unknown. He was a wonderful bird, both to care for as he was very social and verbal and as the star of Bill's programs, striking awe in the faces of each and every audience member for 15 years. He is sorely missed.

Crystal, our golden eagle in “Golden Eagle vs Train,” died in the spring of 2005. Other than ruling out West Nile Virus and a common fungal infection in birds, blood tests were unable to help make a diagnosis. Regardless, she was treated and given supportive care. It was to no avail and she died with Bill Streeter, her trainer and education partner with whom she had formed a strong and unique bond of over 20 years together, at her side.

Although these birds are no longer resident birds at the center, they can still educate our website visitors as they were examples of both what these amazing birds are capable of and how we are capable of affecting them. Like the thousands of audience members who saw these eagles in person, hopefully, their stories posted here will continue to affect our readers in a positive way.


A Stolen Eyas
(Baby Falcon)

American Kestrel
Naomi, an imprinted American Kestrel

American Kestrels . . .

For more information on the American Kestrel, see Raptor Profiles.

In 1991 someone found a kestrel nest and thought it would be interesting to try and raise one of the eyas falcons, so they illegally stole her from the wild, and raised her on an improper diet. By the time she was old enough to fly, she could not fly at all as a result of malnutrition and was then turned in to DVRC. With several months on a proper diet, Naomi gained the ability to fly, but she can never return to the wild where she belongs because her captors also stole her identity.

Birds "imprint" on whatever raises them. Imprinting is a unique process by which a bird makes its social attachments. It forms its identity on whatever raises it and, for raptors, that coincides with the development of their vision. Between weeks four and ten, they are most impressionable. Rehabilitators know that an eyas in their care must be raised in an enclosure with its own species and fed in such a way that the human is not visible. Puppets in the likeness of their species are often used in raising captive young. By taking these precautions, orphaned or injured youngsters can, eventually, be returned to the wild. However, if a raptor is imprinted, releasing it to the wild will do nothing for the species' population as the bird will not recognize, and therefore mate with, its own kind. Instead, it will seek out a human as a mate. Whether 8oz kestrel or 14 pound eagle, the bird, then, becomes at least a menace, if not a danger to humans. People fear wild animals when they come too close and, if a comfortable distance is not kept, the human will seek ways to eliminate the intruder. Imprints often become aggressive when they mature as their mating instincts are often still intact. Just as a wild raised great horned owl will defend its nesting territory from invading horned owls, so too will an imprint defend its territory from humans who may be "trying to move in on" the confused owl's mouse supply. Raptor females are larger than males in order to intimidate the male into providing food for her and her brood. If an imprinted female has chosen a mate, some unsuspecting human will find those eight talons (and biting beak of a falcon), even that of a kestrel, terribly painful until they produce a mouse or other suitable food to the female's liking. The object of the bird's affections will very likely go for the nearest baseball bat or gun and that will be the end of the bird. DVRC will not risk that fate for imprints like Naomi; therefore she has been used for educational programming and is very comfortable in the role since every mating season, she gets to goggle hundreds of possible mates in the audiences who come to see our education programs.

The Mighty Adorable

saw whet owl
Jasper the Saw Whet Owl

Saw-whet owls ...

  • at around 3.5 oz, are the smallest owl in the Northeast, yet only the third smallest owl in the entire U.S.
  • may not have been named for a supposed call likened to the sound of a saw blade being sharpened on a whet stone; rather, their name is more likely a corruption of a French Canadian term for owl – chouette (pronounced show-et
  • are successful hunters, taking small rodents, insects, and the occasional songbird
  • though common in their range, are not often seen due to their deep woods habitat

For more on Saw-whet Owls see Raptor Profiles.

Late one winter night while driving on a backwoods road with no street or house lights, a woman came around a curve where her headlights caught a rock in the middle of the road. To avoid damaging her tires, she managed to swerve and straddle the rock. However, as she passed over the rock, she heard a thump. She feared the worst and pulled over to check. Sure enough, the rock had actually been a tiny saw-whet owl standing in the road and, as she went over it, he spooked and jumped straight up. His head struck the bottom of the car and the woman found him lying on his back unconscious. He had a concussion and went into shock. If the woman had not realized what the thump was and left him, he may have been struck again, or he would have frozen to death by morning. By some miracle, not only had he survived the car, but the woman had stopped for him.

Now, the story can go two ways from here. Considering the size and appearance of these owls that have been labeled in books as "the mighty adorables," it would have been very tempting for his rescuer to keep him and try to care for him herself. After all, he couldn't make that much of a mess or take up very much room. So what if she had to go to a pet store and buy mice for him (chicken or hamburger wouldn't cut it, they need a whole body diet and, while he's recovering, the woman would have had to dispatch the mice for him so that he wouldn't have to try and catch them). No matter how much mess and how many distasteful chores, wouldn't it be worth it to have this incredible little owl around for a while, show him to all her friends and neighbors (forgetting that he would be terrified through it all), and be able to say that she saved his life? Anyone would be hard pressed to give up this cute little guy once he "fell" into their hands. It is true that, had she brought him inside and closed him up in a cardboard box for the night, he might have survived with no more medical treatment than that. In two weeks then, she might turn him loose on her screened-in porch and see how he would fly. To the inexperienced eye, he would get around reasonably well. This would prompt her, then, to take him back to the woods where she found him, set him in a tree, go home, pat herself on the back, and tell all her friends and co-workers how she had saved this little owl and returned him to the wild.

Great! About 4 days later the bird would be dead. Jasper is completely blind in his left eye, even though it appears perfectly normal. Without vision in both eyes, he would not be able to judge distance and could not hunt successfully. Jasper would have recuperated from the car impact only to starve to death once released to the wild, due to the woman's lack of training and experience. Fortunately, the woman was not interested in a show piece or a self-awarded Save-the-Owl trophy. Instead, she earned the distinction by doing everything right. She got him into a cardboard box and inside where it was warm, then called a licensed raptor rehab center, in this case DVRC (for more info see How to Rescue a Raptor). He was rehydrated and treated with medications for shock, placed in a treatment case designed for small raptors, and isolated from people and activity. He recovered, but the nerve damage to his left eye is permanent. Although flighted, his maneuverability is compromised. He lives outside in one of DVRC's saw-whet buildings and is used for the center's educational programming.

Gunshot Victims


Raptors are ...

  • protected by state and federal law. Anyone harming them can be fined and required to serve jail time.
  • still being shot for target practice, due to prejudices based on misinformation, when mistaken for game animals by inexperienced "hunters," and other inexcusable reasons. (This is not a comment for or against hunting. Many birds injured by those DVRC terms as "shooters" are rescued by hunters.)
  • shot and injured but usually do not die instantaneously; instead, they can suffer a lingering death from wounds and starvation. Since it is illegal, those that shoot them do not do it in areas where a carcass -- evidence -- can be found and most shot birds are not found in time.

For more information on the Bald Eagle and the Barred Owl, see Raptor Profiles.

In 1982, someone pointed a gun and pulled the trigger, striking their target in the head and in the wing. The injury to the head was just a glancing blow, but enough to knock him to the ground with a concussion. The wing is broken. On the forest floor, this brown and white marked, medium sized owl with deep, dark brown eyes regains consciousness. He is in pain and confused. Feeling vulnerable on the ground, he tries to fly back up to a branch but cannot. He crouches down warily, waiting for the unknown. Before too long, the flies are attracted to his wounds and he rouses (shakes himself) to repel them. What he does not know is that, if he remains here, any number or combination of fates will befall him. As he tires and weakens, he will not be able to repel the flies nor their attempts to lay eggs in his wounds and ears. Another animal may ravage him. He may last long enough to starve to death. But all he knows is his pain, anxiety, and desire to escape.

Barred Owl
J.J. the Barred Owl

J.J., the barred owl, was one of the lucky ones. Someone happened his way before any of these things happened. A kind hearted person picked him up and took him home, saving him from certain suffering and death. Unfortunately, she didn't know that professional care was available for wildlife and she kept him. His fractured wing was never repaired. Inexperienced in housing raptors, he was kept in a wire cage where, in his fear, he beat his wings against the wire, breaking flight feathers. He clung to the wire so tightly that he broke one toe at the joint. Also left untreated, it healed sticking straight out and completely inflexible. Another toe was damaged so badly, it had to be amputated. Now, even with regained flight, he could not catch mice very effectively without the use of those two toes. After a few months in captivity, the woman learned of DVRC and turned him in. (See How to Rescue A Raptor)

J.J., with a face and eyes that reach deep into each audience member's soul, has been a lasting impression for more than 300,000 students and adults in the countless educational programs he has been a part of since coming to the center. After seeing him and hearing of his trials, it is doubtful that any of those individuals could bring the same pointless anguish to another raptor. At least, that is our hope.

Benson the Bald Eagle
Benson the Bald Eagle

However, many still need to be educated about illegal shootings. Another individual felt so disconnected from his/her environment that he/she put a bullet through the chest and shoulder of one of the most magnificent birds in this country, our national symbol -- the bald eagle. This shooting occurred in Tunkhannock, PA in March of 1994. The immature male eagle was completing his third winter, which is quite a feat considering 75% of raptors die in their first year, especially of starvation in their first winter. But this bird had not only survived three winters, but the winter of '92/'93 was one of the worst the area had seen in many, many years. He did not have the markings of an adult bald eagle (see raptor profiles -- bald eagles), but, disregarding color, there was no bird in season, or really in any season, that looks anything like the shape and stance of a bald eagle. He was shot anyway, and at the time was a federally listed endangered species. The bullet ripped through his shoulder taking a large section of bone with it, a bone that acts as an anchor for his flight muscles. He will never fly again. He matured in captivity, a pr o ve n survivor who never had the chance to add to the wild population of a bird still endangered in Pennsylvania. DVRC trained him for programs and Benson has been traveling to groups since 1995.

However senseless the result of one person's actions toward him, Benson is an example of both extremes of attitudes toward wildlife. He was named for the person who rescued him. Walking along the Susquehanna river on a freezing cold day, he spotted this immature eagle standing on the bank and, for some reason, not fleeing at the young man's approach. The reason, now apparent, was unknown to him and he went closer to discover why the eagle did not fly away. Eventually, Benson did spook. With a useless wing he ran along the bank, but tripped and fell, falling into the river. Not knowing how to swim and with a bad wing, he was sure to drown. What was the young man to do? Getting soaking wet in freezing temperatures meant risking hypothermia, not to mention that the eagle could put a talon in one side of his arm and out the other. He did not carry eagle gloves with him as a rule, on the chance he would need to rescue an eagle. None of this stopped him as he ran into the river and, bare-handed, grabbed the eagle, saving him from drowning and turning him in for treatment.

Xray of gunshot bird
Xray showing fractured wing and gun shot pellets

Unfortunately, DVRC still receives shot birds every year. The center’s annual report often lists gunshot in the top three known causes of injury. In fact, of the known causes of injury for the ospreys DVRC has treated over the years, the gunshot category has the highest number of hits. And the osprey is an endangered species in this state. We've treated an osprey who lost half of his wing, and another lost his life to multiple fractures in both legs, destroying the blood flow to the extremities. Raptors are protected in all states, right down to their body parts. Their feathers cannot be possessed, whether taken or found, without permits, which are issued to educational institutions or card carrying Native Americans only. They are still shot and killed by ranchers and fisheries, using livestock protection as an excuse when research has proven little or no harm to livestock by raptors. Certainly less than the expense of the helicopters they hire to chase down and shoot the golden eagle that fed on a still-born lamb. Some local fish hatcheries cover their runs with fencing to protect their fish from birds and then enjoy viewing the osprey that offer aerial mastery. Not all hatcheries are as conscientious. Target practice by shooters, people with a gun who just want to see what they can do with it, probably takes the biggest toll on raptors. There is no justification for this or any other reason for harming or disturbing protected species. DVRC strives to make this clear to its audiences and readers and would gladly give up having birds like J.J. and Benson to work with if it meant they could remain in the wild unmolested.

Red-Tails That Don't Look Before They Cross

Red-Tailed Hawks ...

  • are one of the largest and most common hawks in North America.
  • are often observed by people as they drive the highways across the nation.
  • are recognized by their large size, white front with dark belly band, brown upperparts, and "red" tails (actually more orange or rust). Immature red-tails have a gray and brown striped tail.
  • diet is made up of small rodents, but red-tails are opportunistic hunters, taking what they can get, including squirrels, rabbits, snakes (even rattlesnakes), and birds.

For more on Red-Tailed Hawks see Raptor Profiles.

Birds are turned into DVRC's clinic for a variety of reasons, including poisonings, gunshots, diseases, starvation, bite wound abscesses, entanglements, cat and dog attacks, and having been removed from the wild illegally. However, most birds are rescued and turned in after being hit by cars. People are often surprised by this fact as one would think they would be in the woods, not hanging out in the pathway of cars. If they should find themselves with a car approaching, they could fly out of the way. Actually, some species of raptors are drawn to roads. The roadsides are often mowed, making it easier to find mice and insects, and the grassy medians provide the same low grass and a lack of competition from ground predators who cannot cross the traffic. Fences, telephone lines and poles, and light standards provide perches with a good view of the surrounding roadside from which red-tails and kestrels are often seen hunting. Unfortunately, after focusing in on their prey across the road, that may be all they see as they swoop down on their meal. Even the skillful flighted peregrine falcon is subject to injuries from cars. DVRC has an unreleasable peregrine that was struck by a car.

Broadwinged hawks, a forest dwelling species, are often seen on telephone lines on winding, wooded secondary roads and may not have a chance to see a car coming while they move through the woods, crossing a road. Both highways and winding roads are a problem for hawks scavenging on roadkill. Once they have obtained a meal, they are reluctant to give it up considering how difficult it can be to get enough to eat. In addition to their desire to keep their food, it is not as easy as we may think to get aloft. Therefore, a car coming upon a bird on the ground may not be able to stop in time to avoid hitting it.

Whatever the reason, it does happen, especially soon after the young hawks fledge and are not as quick and maneuverable as their more experienced parents. In August and September, DVRC admits mostly impact victims. Two such birds are the two red-tail hawks we use in our programs. Nekanah was hit by a car in her first year and damaged her left eye. Experimental laser surgery was performed on her in a human hospital to recover her sight in that eye. She was even on Tom Brokaw's Nightly News, telling viewers all about her and what had been done for her eye. They failed to mention that it did not work. She still cannot see out of that eye and, therefore, cannot hunt successfully or navigate well. She started doing programs the following year in 1986.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Another immature red-tail, during her first migration season in 1990, was struck by a car and suffered a concussion and fractured wing. Fortunately, the break could be repaired surgically and she was released in the spring of 1991. She did not learn her lesson, though, as three months later, she flew into the path of another car and, this time, sustained irreparable damage to her wing. Her flight is now compromised. She had two shots at the wild and failed both times. Sienna has been used for education programs ever since.

Foster Parents

A Human Imprint ...

  • is a bird that was raised by a human during the critical time in which they form their identity. If raised by a human, they will form their social bonds with humans rather than with their own species. This malady is irreversable.
  • is prevented when, juvenile raptors found after falling from their nests are returned to their nests, fostered with other wild parents, or raised in captivity with restricted human contact, both physical and visual.
  • is best prevented when baby birds are left in their own parents care.

For more about human imprinting, see resident bird bios, A Stolen Eyas (Baby Falcon)

Nestling raptors that have found themselves in human hands and cannot be returned to their nests are at risk of becoming human imprints and, as a result, are unreleasable. Therefore, DVRC houses both great horned owls and screech owls as foster parents for these youngsters who need "role models" of their own species to imprint upon. Whatever species of nestling that comes in is placed with its own kind, but the most common "orphans" are the great horned owls (GHO's) and screech owls. In a flight chamber together, resides one gray phase and one red phase screech owl (screech owls can be either red or gray, but they do not change colors as the term "phase" implies). Both were hit by cars, the red, “Flutter,” sustaining damage to her eye that prevents her from being released. The gray screech owl injured his wing and cannot fly well enough to hunt.

A long time foster parent and education bird, now retired, is "Mama" a GHO that was hit by a car, fracturing her wing at the elbow joint. She can fly back and forth in her chamber, but she cannot rotate her wing properly to gain altitude. She was used in education programs for many years and was a stoic representative of the wild, detached attitude of raptors. She was just as detached when it came to the many owlets she fostered. It did not matter, though, as all they needed was an adult to watch, follow, and spend their time with. They were either fed by puppet or, when old enough, ate for themselves. Mama was always there to perform the most important role -- just being a horned owl.

Foster Parent
Olivia and young GHO's in her care

In 1990 another GHO came to DVRC after someone had not only imprinted her, but caused her to develop cataracts due to improper feeding. Olivia cannot see as well as she should and is a complete imprint. She will not give a moment's peace to an adult GHO placed in her chamber, repeatedly attacking it. However, a group of people outside her window is met with constant bows and hoots in demonstration of her mating displays. On the other side of that coin, though, as with most imprints, she has no fear of and can be very aggressive toward her caretakers. Surprisingly, when she is set up with baby GHO's, she is not only tolerant, but shows a great deal of interest in them. She perches near the slatted front of their case where they remain until they are old enough to move around the building safely. At that point, they tend to perch where she is perching. As an imprint, Olivia often calls at feeding time which can be very helpful when it is time to release the babies at hack (with support from humans).

Baby GHO's tend to stay with their parents longer than most raptors, and may be supplemented by their parents up until the next brood comes along. In fact, where most raptors' highest mortality rate, that of 75%, is in their first year, it is in the second year for a horned owl, once they must depend solely on their own abilities. As with any juvenile release, food is left on hack boards at the edge of the center so that the birds can return for handouts until they become skilled hunters, just as they would depend on their parents for a little help had they fledged naturally. Unfortunately, their instinct is to stay near their nest site and beg from or harass their parents. We cannot count on them adapting to finding the food on our hackboard. With GHO's, though, Olivia helps out by calling when she is fed. The released babies often respond to her call, even though she is not calling for them but flirting with the human that just walked past her. The babies don't know that and their chance of survival is thus increased due to Olivia.


Julia's Story
by Bill Streeter

Golden Eagle
Julia   (photo by Lou Buscher)

Susan Ahalt with Julie
Susan Ahalt with Julie

With much anticipation, Julia ("Julie") arrived at the Delaware Valley Raptor Center in November of 2005. We had been corresponding with Susan Ahalt, director of Ironside Bird Rescue in Cody, WY, for weeks working out the details of her transfer. Susan was forced to find a new home for her golden eagle after giving up her education license. We had been searching for a replacement for our golden eagle of 24 years, Crystal, who died unexpectedly the previous spring. Julia had come into Susan's possession ten years previously after having been hit by a car. She suffered a fractured left leg and a head injury which eventually resulted in blindness in her right eye. She came to Ironside for treatment and Susan named her "Julie" in reference to Julie Andrews because she was injured outside the Edelweiss Restaurant. Her leg healed fine, but Susan, who works with many golden eagles noticed a subtle difference in her behavior which she described as slightly "dull," most likely because of her head injury. Indeed, Julie refused to fly for nine years, which is not typical of any bird, even if blind in one eye. However, one day she must have had enough of standing around because suddenly she started flying.

Bill with Julia
(photo by Scott Rando)

Julia arrived feather perfect and stood on my fist immediately after being removed from her carrying case. Breathtakingly beautiful at 14 pounds with a wingspan of 7 feet she fluffed up her feathers and shook them back down into place (roused) obviously relieved to finally leave the dog kennel in which she was transported for so many hours. She settled into her new flight enclosure immediately, and has chosen the back northwest corner as her favorite spot. She seldom flies but does occasionally as we will find her on the front perches every so often. When placed in the front of her building however, she inevitably flies back to her favorite corner within minutes.

A few weeks after her arrival I took Julia for her first public education program and in her first 8 months at DVRC she has done over 70. The star attraction, she is always the last bird to be shown and the result is always the same, a collective gasp of awe from the audience. When a magnificent 14 pound female golden eagle spreads her seven feet wingspan even the most jaded eighth grader sits up and takes notice, and as with Crystal, I have seen adults tear up in her presence. After living with this bird for ten years, it was extremely difficult for Susan to give her up. How fortunate that we were chosen to be Julia's new care givers. She is a gift for which we will always be grateful.

Julia's photo appears on the cover of Golden Eagle Sovereign of the Skies by Charles R. Preston. Other photos of her can be found inside the book.

For more information on Golden Eagles see Golden Eagle vs. Train
and Raptor Profiles.