American Bald Eagle Foundation        Summer 2019


(e)agle newsletter



www.baldeagles.org   113 Haines Highway Haines, AK 99827 907.766.3094
Free Flight

Until recently, any bird who came out of their enclosure for training or programs would be tethered to their trainer’s glove or on a long leash called a creance. These are necessary safety measures to prevent birds from flying out of sight if startled. Recently, the training staff has removed these measures for some birds in favor of monitored free-flight.
Dylan, Sitka, and Hans are three of the ambassadors who have made the transition into free flight, each in their own way. Dylan the screech owl’s enclosure is inside our Raptor Room. This room has been modified into space where he can fly freely during programs with guests in the room. The exits are screened to prevent him flying into unsafe areas, allowing him full exploration of his expanded space.
Sitka the red-tailed hawk does not have perfect extension in his right wing, so he can’t produce the lift he would need for high flights. This gave staff confidence that they would not lose sight of him if he were to be startled outside, and they began allowing Sitka the opportunity to come out of his aviary and explore the Foundation property. 
Hans the Eurasian eagle-owl is fully flighted. When flying outside, he is equipped with GPS and radio telemetry. This way, if Hans is startled and gets out of sight, staff can find him and ask him back to the ABEF safely and comfortably. 
This behavior is a huge step for the ABEF and relies on skilled trainers and confident ambassadors. ABEF has worked hard to get this program off the ground by researching the best telemetry for Alaskan terrain and speaking with other professionals in the field on best practices for free flight. Positive relationships build resilience and trust to make behaviors like this one possible .
Professional Consultation

The ABEF has made great advancements in the training and quality of lives of our ambassadors in recent years. This advancement would not be possible without dedicated staff and professional connections which help us continue to grow. Amy Fennel, a supervisor with Natural Encounters, Inc., has been a close friend of the Foundation for a few years now, and this July she made her second visit for a professional consultation.
Last fall, Amy consulted with the ABEF about steps we could take to improve our training and educational programming. This year, Amy’s assistance was requested to guide staff in developing a free flight program. Amy has been free flying birds for many years and her experience was vital in the first free flight the Foundation and staff ever attempted. With this knowledge and confidence, staff plans to continue free flight and introduce that training to more ambassadors on our team in the coming years. Our thanks to Amy and Natural Encounters, Inc. for their support and guidance!
Aviary Renovation
The ABEF works hard to give the ambassadors who live and work with us the highest quality of life we can provide. This summer, staff renovated three of our older aviaries to let in more light and create enriching views for the ambassadors who live in them. Raptor Program Manager Sidney Campbell led the large-scale project to open Ole, Hans, and Sitka’s aviaries and rearrange perching.
Each aviary was modified to include more windows and a skylight which would allow them access to the elements. With this renovation complete, all of the ambassadors have proper lighting and perching to let in more sunlight and have privacy when they choose.
Meet the Interns

Shravan Sundaram is a Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology major at UC Davis. He has always had an interest in birds of prey and wanted to gain experience working in a raptor center. The ABEF gives him the opportunity to share natural history information and understand raptor behavior up close to gain valuable new skills.
Shravan grew up on the west coast in one of the most diverse and wildlife-rich parts of the country. Alaska has always been on his bucket list to visit because of his love of wildlife photography. He hopes to gain a strong understanding of animal behavior and guest interaction experience while here at the ABEF. The staff enjoys his photography skills and attention to details when completing projects.
Jacob Ney is an Environmental Studies major with a minor in Biology at St. John’s University. Jacob chose ABEF after interning at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Minnesota last summer. His experience at Wolf Ridge gave him an introduction to natural history education and working with raptors.
Visiting Alaska has always been a dream of Jacob’s, and this internship gave him the opportunity to experience an Alaskan summer while advancing his skills in raptor training and public education. During his internship here, he created strong relationships with avian ambassadors employing our birds-first philosophy and learned more about the natural history of Southeast Alaska. The ABEF staff enjoyed Jacob’s positive attitude and dedication to doing his best work on every project, including his intern education project which was to complete interpretation for the Raptors of the North exhibit in the museum.
Aviary Accessibility

Staff completed a boardwalk in the aviaries this past May, providing guests with wheelchairs and walkers an easier path. With that project complete, benches and an exit ramp were built to supply guests with an area to sit down and spend more time in the aviaries during their visit. In June, the bench placement and ramp installation were completed and immediately taken advantage of by visitors. This summer is only the second season guests have been allowed to freely walk around the aviaries without being on a guided tour, and staff has been increasing accessibility each year to make it safer and easier to navigate the space.
Species Spotlight

Bald eagles are one of the most easily identifiable species of animal in the world because of their distinctive white head and tail. This classic look takes about 6 years to fully develop, and for the first 3, they are completely brown. Beaks, eyes, head, and tail transition from dark to light between four and six years of age. Bald eagles on average weigh 6-14 pounds and have a wingspan of 6-7 feet.
This species is only found in North America and is our national symbol. They range between Alaska and Canada all the way down into Florida and Northern Mexico. Bald eagles are typically found near large bodies of water because of their fish-heavy diet, but also commonly scavenge for food. Bald eagles are one of the largest species of eagle in North America, and after being taken off the Endangered Species List in 2007, have become increasingly more abundant throughout the country. E-mail us with what you think next month’s Species Spotlight should be and it might just make the next issue!
When you become a member of the American Bald Eagle Foundation, you’re helping to fund educational programs such as our Youth Raptor Program, reduced price programs for low-income families or groups, as well as the resources we need to give our avian ambassadors the best possible care via husbandry, enrichment and training. Interested in joining?