Three eaglets are too much for a single-bird parent, so her three babies, orphaned when their mother was hit by a plane, have been sent to the Wildlife Center of Virginia to be raised by certified handlers.
Their 15-year-old mother, who was avidly followed by tribal members and others around the world via eagle cam, was struck and killed by a US Airways flight inbound from Philadelphia on April 26, the Virginian-Pilot reported.
The eaglets were removed from their nest the next day out of fears that the father eagle could not provide enough food on his own to a growing brood, the Norfolk Botanical Garden in Norfolk, Virginia, said in a press release.
“Without intervention, it is all but certain that one or more of these eaglets would not survive the next three months,” said Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) biologist Stephen Living in a statement. “Pulling the birds and sending them to the Wildlife Center gives them their best chance. The birds are already old enough to know that they are eagles and to recognize their siblings. Maintaining them as a family unit and releasing them together when they are ready to go will certainly improve their survival potential.”
Eagles, representing freedom and courage, are considered emissaries from the sky, prayers floating on the wind, according to the website Support Native American Art. Their feathers are sacred pieces of their spirit and reflect a recipient’s vision and accomplishments, blogs site founder Michaele, who holds an anthropology degree from Penn State with a concentration in Native American archaeology and a minor in religious studies.
The garden is hosting a memorial on Sunday May 1 to honor the fallen eagle, whose spirit has indeed gone to the heavens. The Native American Drum Group Four Rivers Drum will play in tribute to her in an event open to the public. It begins at 10:30 a.m. in the Matson Garden area at the Norfolk Botanical Garden.
The eagle had been followed via webcam since 2006, CNN reported, with 5 million views in March when the chicks hatched, a VDGIF spokeswoman for the told the network, whose affiliate WVEC helped operate the webcam.
Now they will be watched by other eyes: According to the botanical garden, they will spend the rest of their eaglet-hood at the WCV in an artificial nest in the Center’s 200-foot eagle-flight cage before being released into the wild in late summer.
“Other adult bald eagle patients may also be in this enclosure,” the garden’s statement said. “While the chicks will be separated by a physical barrier from direct contact with other eagles, the eaglets will be able to see other eagles flying and feeding. As they begin to fledge, the barrier will be removed and the young eagles will have full access to the long enclosure, to build their wing strength and to learn to fly.”
Learn more about the eagle cam, then witness the last contact the mother had with her chicks, below.