Dan Nicholas eaglet will move to Huntersville

Published 12:05 am Friday, April 8, 2016

Rowan County’s eaglet will move to a new home on Monday.

In an email, Animal Services Director Bob Pendergrass says the Carolina Raptor Center is scheduled to pick up the eaglet at 9 a.m. on Monday. Named Freedom, the eaglet will be moved from the Dan Nicholas Park Nature Center to the Carolina Raptor Center’s facility in Huntersville.

The eaglet poked its head through his or her shell on March 10. Its parents are Liberty and Justice, both of whom have lived at Dan Nicholas Park since 2006.

When Freedom moves to the Carolina Raptor Center, it will be placed with a pair of eagles that are sitting on infertile eggs, Pendergrass said in his email. Both eagles at the Carolina Raptor Center are off exhibit, away from public view.

“The eaglet will be fostered to these parents and their infertile eggs removed,” Pendergrass said in his email. “In an eagle’s mind, that means that their eggs just hatched. This has been done a lot in raptor conservation projects around the world, including with bald eagles.”

Freedom’s transfer to foster parents, should “go without a hitch,” he said. “… But of course in nature there are no guarantees,” he said.

Pendergrass said a similar process occurred with three red wolf pups that were born at Dan Nicholas in 2007. At least one of the three pups has matured and birthed pups of her own, Pendergrass said.

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Freedom is scheduled to be with the foster parents, away from seeing humans, for about four more weeks. After that, the Carolina Raptor Center will move the eaglet to a “hack tower” on Mountain Island Lake. The towers are built high off the ground, with a portion of the structure that will allow Freedom to see his or her environment.

Pendergrass said staff at the Carolina Raptor Center will take food to the tower daily and discretely drop it to the eaglet.

“At such time as the eaglet is well suited for flight and exercising its muscles, the box will be opened,” Pendergrass said. “Probably a day or few later, Freedom will take his/her first flight.”

He said food will continue to be provided to Freedom at the “hack tower” after the first flight.

“If things go well, life for an eagle is pretty interesting,” he said. “For the first few years, sub-adult eagles roam vast areas of the continent. They start out as all blackish brown. It takes about five years for them to reach sexual maturity and get the white head and tail feathers we all recognize. Then, they will hopefully start a new family of their own.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.