AWC welcomes bald eagle named Shelby

Published 3:33 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2018

PELHAM – A 2-year-old bald eagle, lovingly named Shelby, commanded the attention of the crowd at she took her first pubic flight in her new home, called a mew, at the Alabama Wildlife Center in Oak Mountain State Park on Saturday, Dec. 15.

“We named her Shelby to honor the place where we live, the people who live here and those who volunteer and aide in the work we do here at the AWC,” Adair said. “The AWC is so well-supported by the people, leadership, elected officials and business community here in Shelby County and we are so honored to be in this giving community.”

The AWC held a ribbon cutting for Shelby’s new enclosure, which was built this year in anticipation of her arrival. With a wingspan of 8 feet and weighing 14 pounds, AWC executive director Doug Adair, said Shelby could live for more than 50 years.

“Raptors are generally the opposite of dogs,” Adair said. “The bigger they are, they longer they live.”

Shelby comes to Alabama from the state of Washington. Adair said she was hit by a car and sustained head trauma and lost vision in one eye. She was rehabilitated by a veterinarian in Oregon. Her injuries prevent her from being able to survive in the wild.

“Whenever a bird can’t be re-released, they’re put on a national registry and there’s a process to go through to determine what organization will have the privilege of caring for the bird,” Adair said. “Native American groups get the first right of refusal and then it’s opened up to other organizations.”

Shelby is the only bald eagle in central and north Alabama on educational display and only the second in the state. The other is located on the Gulf Coast.

Linda Miller, chairwoman of the AWC board of directors, said she never envisioned that they center would one day be home to a bald eagle.

“It’s a surprise when you get the news that you’ve been selected because there are so many other organizations this beautiful animal could’ve gone to,” she said. “We really had to make sure we were ready to receive her.”

Miller said she’s nervous as the bird was flown from Oregon to Alabama.

“Doug sent me a picture of him kneeling beside her when he finally got her, and the text message said ‘The eagle has landed,’” she said with a laugh. “It was such a relief. I’m so excited to watch her grow and to see her get her white head.”

It takes about five years before a bald eagle’s head and tail feathers turn white.

The AWC also recently welcomed a Eurasian eagle owl, which occupies the mew beside Shelby. The owl was illegally kept as a pet in Wyoming and was confiscated by the state’s fish and game department. Because the owl was kept as a pet, it imprinted on humans and is unable to survive in the wild.  Imprinting is a form of learning in which an animal gains its sense of species identification. After imprinting, they will identify with that species for life.

Shelby and the Eurasian eagle owl will help the AWC further its mission of educating the public about wildlife conservation. The birds can be viewed by the public in their new homes at the AWC, which is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.