The female eagle soaring over Norfolk Botanical Gardens. by Duane Noblick, 2011, used with permission
NORFOLK, VA. On Tuesday, April 26, a female American Bald Eagle was struck and killed by an incoming airplane at Norfolk International Airport.
Eagle couple at Norfolk Botanical Gardens by Joe Forman, 2011, used with permission
She was one of a pair of American Bald Eagles that nested in the Norfolk Botanical Garden (NBG), Norfolk VA, in 2003. They have raised 19 eaglets since then, including three eaglets hatched March 13-17, 2011. Millions of viewers around the world have watched the growth of these eagle families online through the Garden's popular "Eagle Cam" since it was installed in 2006.
The nesting female eagle at Norfolk Botanical Gardens, 2011. by Duane Noblick 2011, used with permission
Wildlife biologists at the The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), were concerned that the adult male would not be able to provide sufficient food for the five-week-old eaglets, and determined that the chicks should be removed from the nest. While the male might be able to meet the current needs of the eaglets, as the amount of food they require grows exponentially, the biologists believe that the hunting capacity of even the most capable provider would be exceeded.
A number of options were considered as the VDGIF assessed the situation, including: no intervention, providing supplemental food for the chicks, or separating them for placement in the nests of other eagles.
Three eaglets hatched in March, 2011 by Joe Foreman, 2011, used with permission
Ultimately, the biologists and the agency eagle expert determined that the most appropriate response would be to remove the eaglets and transport them to The Wildlife Center of Virginia (WCV), where they were sent on Wednesday.
There, they will be reared in specialized facilities and cared for by trained, permitted eagle rehabilitators until they are old enough to be released into the wild.
VDGIF Biologist Stephen Living said, "people worldwide have watched these eagles over the years and followed their progress. Without intervention, it is all but certain that one or more of these eaglets would not survive the next three months ... sending (the chicks) 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."
Eagle with fish over Norfolk Botanical Gardens by Holly Smith, 2011. Used with permission.
Kelly Gaita Dierberger of the NBG shared that after the chicks had been removed, observers were deeply touched when the male eagle arrived at the empty nest with a fish.
She noted, too, that the female eagle's former mate had also been struck and killed by a plane in 2002. The Norfolk International Airport is adjacent to the botanical gardens.
Once paired, bald eagles remain together until one dies.
The bald eagle has a deep, archetypal connection to America. The bird was sacred to the Native Nations long before America was conceived. The "eagle eye" symbolizes vision, and the essence of this great bird is strength and courage. Because the eagle flies higher than any other known bird, it symbolizes the quest for the heights of excellence.