Avalon

  • Hatched on Santa Catalina Island in 2010, as part of bald eagle recovery efforts (see “A Symbol of Success,” below)
  • In 2011, flew nearly 1,000 miles to Washington state, where she sustained an injury to her left wing in a collision with a car
  • Was rehabilitated in Washington and returned to California to become an Ojai Raptor Center education ambassador
  • Arrived at the Zoo in June 2015
  • Has limited mobility but can make short flights and perch in trees
  • Is the more talkative of the two eagles, and “chatters” at keepers when they are in or around her enclosure

Betsy

  • Hatched in the wild in early 1999 (est.)
  • Was found being held illegally and with significant wing injuries that left her unable to fly
  • Arrived at the Zoo in October 2000
  • Had her right eye removed due to an infection, feathers have grown over the socket
  • Has been the dominant bird since she arrived
  • Likes to bathe in the enclosure’s pond
  • Mostly ignores keepers

A Symbol of Freedom

The bald eagle is the emblem of the United States, chosen by Founding Fathers in 1782 because of its “supreme power and authority.” Notably, Benjamin Franklin was against the choice, along with artist John James Audubon. Franklin wanted the turkey for national bird.

The number 13, representing the original 13 colonies, appears throughout.

The Great Seal depicts a bald eagle holding a scroll in its beak inscribed with E Pluribus Unum (“Out of Many, One”) – 13 letters long. An olive branch with 13 leaves is in one outstretched claw, and 13 arrows in the other. On its chest is a shield with 13 stars on a field of blue, above 13 red and white vertical stripes.

The seal is our country’s national coat of arms and used on official documents (like passports), as decoration on military uniform buttons, on flags; above entries to U.S. embassies and consulates, and on the one-dollar bill.

“(The bald eagle) is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly... (P)erched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk, and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish… the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him.”

Benjamin Franklin

A Symbol of Success

Forty years ago, this symbol of our nation was in danger of extinction throughout much of its range, including along the Central Coast and on the Channel Islands.

The persistent pesticide DDT was dumped into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Los Angeles from the 1940s through the 1960s. Eagles ate fish contaminated by DDT, which caused the eagles’ eggs to be so thin-shelled that they were crushed by the parents.

By the 1970s, bald eagles no longer inhabited the Channel Islands.

It took four decades before they returned, thanks to protection under the Endangered Species Act, the banning of DDT, and conservation measures – including relocating non-native golden eagles (who had moved onto the Islands), and reintroducing bald eagles.

On August 9, 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species.

The bald eagle now flourishes on the Channel Islands, throughout California, and across the nation.

Avalon and her nest-mate are tended to by their parents in the “Two Harbors” nest on Santa Catalina Island.

From the Keepers

“Avalon lacks bald eagle ‘social skills.’ She will crowd Betsy, who has to put up her foot and talons as if to say ‘back off – that’s close enough!’ But Avalon doesn’t understand or react when this happens. It just goes right over her head. Then she tries it again.”

Carol, Assistant Curator of Birds

Avalon’s Adventures

Avalon is among the first of her species to successfully hatch without human assistance on Catalina Island in nearly sixty years. This is significant because eggs had previously been removed from wild nests by biologists and incubated, then the hatched chicks were returned to the wild.

Viewers watched on a live “eagle cam” as she and her male sibling hatched, were cared for by their parents, and eventually took their first flights, or “fledged.”

Avalon made her way to Washington State and was found with an injured wing, most likely from a collision with a car. Identified by her wing tag, she was rehabilitated in Washington before being returned to California, specifically to the Ojai Raptor Center. There were hopes that she would take part in educational outreach programs as an “ambassador bird.”

But wild birds have varying temperaments, and it was decided Avalon would have a higher quality of life with less direct interaction with people in a home at the Zoo.

Conservation Status

On August 9, 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species. It remains protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940. It is listed as a species of “least concern” on the IUCN Red List.

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