Fly Free!

It used to be a regular event around Eastertide.  But Sitka hasn’t seen it since 2019, the annual eagle release at the Alaska Raptor Center.  The Center takes in injured raptors, nurses to health those it can, and releases them to freedom.  Those that cannot survive become resident “educational” birds or get homes in zoos around the country.

The last spring release was in 2019.  COVID 19 canceled a public release in 2020, then avian influenza, “bird flu” started to spread and the center had to be careful who it took in.

But last spring and fall the center took in several birds and released six today (Saturday, March 23.)  Five were immature eagles, who had not yet gotten their white heads and tails.  One was an older male.

Two of the birds were gathered last spring in Anchor Point, on the Kenai Peninsula when their nest tree fell over and they tumbled out onto the ground.  Another immature eagle was picked up in November in Soldotna.  One eagle got into a fight with another eagle in Sitka. An eagle in Juneau was becoming habituated to people and one was from Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians.   I wonder what that bird thought of trees when he found himself free in a rain forest.

The center has a hospital and flight barns where the eagles can practice flying and, in the case of the babies, become habituated to other eagles.

Today kids lined the muskeg trail at the center.  They counted down as one handler prepared to pull the hood off the head of the bird, and another let the bird loose.  The birds all took off, some buzzing the crowd, and headed for the trees and mountains.

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