On March 24, the World Bird Sanctuary will host World Eagle Day. The event provides visitors an opportunity to learn about and interact with some of nature’s most majestic creatures, including the national symbol, the Bald Eagle.
Introduced in the mid-1980s, World Eagle Day is a multifunctional event; it serves as the culmination of eagle season, raises awareness of migratory eagles, and serves as a fundraiser for the organization. The annual event attracts between two hundred and three thousand visitors, something WBS staff member Cathy Spahn notes is “dependent on the weather.”
Used as a rehabilitation center for up to four hundred birds, the World Bird Sanctuary cares for approximately twenty to thirty eagles at a given time, something Spahn mentions costs over $1,000.00 annually per large eagle. The World Bird Sanctuary receives no state or federal funding; rather it is supported through donations, annual memberships, the Adopt-a-Bird program, educational outreach programs, and special events.
For this year’s event the World Bird Sanctuary is hosting William Voelker, a member of the Comanche Nation. Voelker will moderate two forty-five minute programs about Bald Eagles and their importance to Comanche tribes and culture. Distinguished as the first Native American to obtain federal permits for the care and breeding of Bald and Golden Eagles, Voelker co-founded Sia in 1999 to promote “preservation through cultural understanding of the eagle in history, science, and spirit.
In addition to Voelker’s appearance, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalists will be on hand with raptor facts and live eagle shows throughout the day, something that will provide photo ops and fun for people of all ages. Spahn said, “I’ve been here thirteen years going on fourteen now, so I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s a love and a passion and this will be my eighth eagle day.”
The presentation of Eagle Day poses seemingly inherent risks for the handlers, though. Despite the amount of risk involved when handling birds of prey, Spahn reassures, “Getting bit is very rare with a bird of prey. Birds of prey use their feet for defense, so that can happen, but when it [getting bit] happens, you have done something wrong. It’s very rare.”
Rarity was a once common term associated with eagles but Spahn notes “The Bald Eagle has been removed from the Endangered Species List, though it’s still protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Act.”
Due to the recovery efforts of organizations like the World Bird Sanctuary, Bald Eagles were removed from the List of Endangered Species in 2007. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Bald Eagles are of “least concern,” as of the 2012 Red List report.
Increased populations mean that eagle watchers have a good chance of witnessing the flight of an eagle in the wild and Spahn tips, “If you want to eagle watch you can come to the World Bird Sanctuary early in the morning but the best area in St. Louis is up towards Alton.”
Spahn also noted that a handler will likely be flying a Bald Eagle at the event and that the event will also feature the other six species (Golden, Bateleur, Wedge-tailed, Tawny, Long-crested, and White-tailedSea) of eagles housed at the World Bird Sanctuary. The World Bird Sanctuary is situated beside Lone Elk Park, a car park where visitors may see elk, bison, or white-tailed deer before or after attending the event.
To get up close and personal with eagles, snap great photos, make fun crafts, tour the wildlife hospital, and enjoy concessions, World Eagle Day is Sunday, March 24th from 10a.m. to 4 p.m. Entry and parking are free. The address for the World Bird Sanctuary is 125 Bald Eagle Ridge Rd., Valley Park, MO 63088. For directions or additional information, visit www.worldbirdsanctuary.org or call 636-225-4390 ext. 0.
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