Saturday, April 02, 2011

Golden Girl

When we talk about Eagles in Kentucky, we usually mean the Bald Eagle, which has a white head and tail. With a wingspread of almost 7 feet, the Golden Eagle is larger than the Bald Eagle, and has a wash of gold feathers on the back of its neck. Golden Eagles are more often found in the mountainous regions of the western states, except, of course, for the Golden Eagle which has come to live at Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky.

Eileen Wicker received a phone call from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, asking if she would like to have a Golden Eagle for our education program. A raptor center in Tennessee would be closing due to the illness of the director, and all the birds needed new homes. This eagle is a full amputee, that is, the entire left wing is gone. She had been in a cage for 18 years without being handled or used for education programs. We were warned that she was aggressive, but this was the chance of a lifetime, so John and Eileen drove to TN to get her in September 2010. Under current law, a bird that must have a wing amputated is required be euthanized; however, this bird had been grandfathered in and allowed to live despite this condition making it difficult for her to keep her balance.

Once at the RROKI center, John kept her in a roomy cage where she could have quiet while adjusting to her new surroundings. He started sitting in her cage, reading a book, so she could become accustomed to people. After a while, he put jesses on her legs for a short time. Eventually, he worked to teach her how to sit on his gloved hand for short periods. This is the hardest part for her, since she has a long wing on one side, but none on the other, and has a hard time keeping her balance when not on her motionless perch. By March, 2011, he started taking her to programs where we could set up a perch for her, to familiarize her with groups of people talking and standing nearby. She has become a new star at RROKI!

She does not like wearing jesses (leather straps) around her legs. They flatten her leg feathers down – not attractive at all. She easily learned how to loosen them and pull her foot out, so she's quite an escape artist. When she is at a program we have to keep an eye on her so she doesn’t remove the jesses and walk off!

LG&E is sponsoring our Golden Eagle, as they have supported us in other endeavors for many years. Our eagle was called Charlemagne at her previous home, and everyone agreed that she needs a better name, so the employees at LG&E held a contest to name the Golden Eagle. The winning entry is (ta-DAA) Aurelia, which is Latin for Golden. So welcome to Kentucky, Aurelia, our golden girl!


Mary said...

Just a beautifully written story for as glorious a looking Golden. We traveled out west last year, just so I could view the Bald and Golden Eagles. I was absolutely weeping with joy the first time I saw a Golden soar. The fact that this beauty cannot fly is sad, the fact that her life was spared and she can be used to educate people, that is a great thing. Would there be a way for me to get to meet her and photograph her? I sometimes so regret that I no longer have my Federal Raptor Care and release permit...such a joy being able to be close to any Raptor~

Jen said...

Wow that's awesome.. She's beautiful!

Karen Bonsell said...

Kathy, your pics of the Golden Eagle are beautiful! I hope to get out there someday to see her! Do they ever have tours of Raptor Rehab? Maybe Ryan (Ankeny) & I could visit & write about it on the blog! The presentation at the Beckham meeting was an awesome experience! To be so close to such amazing birds!
Karen Bonsell