Monday, June 30, 2014

HB5 Flies Free Again

Injured and infected right wing of eaglet on 5/29/14
As many of you might remember one of our eaglets, HB5, was injured last month and had to be taken to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine for treatment as documented in this blogpost Harrison Bay Eaglet Injury Update.  Dr. Cheryl Greenacre and her staff at UT CVM did an amazing job of cleaning HB5s injuries and preparing it for transport to the American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge, TN for rehabilitation.

After a short time in a solitary cage to regain its strength and mend its wounds HB5 was moved from the small netted cage area to a larger 150 foot flight cage where it could spread its wings and get stronger.  A sub adult bald eagle was placed in the flight cage with it for companionship and to help it cope with being in captivity.  In the short three weeks that HB5 was at the AEF facilities it quickly regained its strength and it was evident that it wanted to fly free, again.

Today was a special day at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay as Mr. Al Cecere and his staff from AEF journeyed to Harrison Bay to return HB5 back to the wild where he belongs and at the site where he was designed and destined to live.

After a little bit of a struggle and a "good bye" nip at Mr. Cecere's thumb HB5 was removed from the transport carrier.  Mr. Cecere stated that HB5 was one of the feistiest birds he had seen, using every trick in the book not to be captured each time they tired, and did not expect this bird to ever want to be near humans again.  Bad for us but great for HB5.

A small but very interested group of eagle watchers gathered for the release which was probably a once in a lifetime event for us all.  The support and interest in our program has been overwhelming this year and we hope to carry this momentum forward. Mitchell Sivley, Assistant Superintendent at Harrison Bay, looks on ready for the action.
Mr. Cecere was very patient and accommodating with all those in attendance allowing us time to be up-close and personal with HB5.  Golf Course Superintendent Paul L. Carter and his daughter Hannah, who gave the adult eagles their names, Elliott and Eloise, spend time some quality time with HB5 before its release.

Seeing this magnificent bird up close today was a highlight of my career.  We were so thankful that Mr. Cecere took his time and provided us his special observations about HB5.  Mr. Cecere stated that he had not seen a prettier eaglet and was amazed by the pure dark feathers on HB5s head and tail.

One feature of the eagle that I had never seen before were the black barbs located at the rear of the tongue.  These barbs are called "rear-directed papillae" and are used to aid in the swallowing of food.  In the very back of the tongue there is a hole called the "glottis" which is the entrance to the windpipe.  The "glottis" will close when swallowing or calling out.

Every eagle needs a little bling
HB5 was also banded with a special band from the US Department of Agriculture.  The band is unobtrusive to the bird and will help to identify it if is viewed by eagle watchers in another area or is injured or captured again.  The talons are extremely impressive up close and definitely demanded your attention.

Before the release of HB5 back into the wild Mr. Cecere took a moment to remember a great Tennessean and great American who he was a personal friend with and had recently passed away.  Mr. Cecere in a fitting tribute to his friend Senator Howard Baker asked if we could rename HB5 to "The Great Conciliator" in honor of the late senator's ability to bring peace and mediation between both political parties while serving his country in Washington.  Senator Baker's spirit will now fly free with HB5.

After everyone had gotten to see HB5 it was time for it to return to the sky where it belongs and in one quick toss Mr. Cecere released it into the air.  It quickly took to flight and flew directly to the perch tree beside the nest tree where HB6 had been sitting less than an hour before.  As we watched it sit on the tree both parents and HB6 came flying overhead as if to say "Welcome Home".

We cannot thank the Bear Trace golf course staff members who captured HB5, the Harrison Bay State Park Rangers who rushed it to be checked out, the fine doctors at UT College of Veterinary Medicine for treating it, or Mr. Cecere and his fantastic staff at the American Eagle Foundation enough.  Their hard work and dedication has returned another bald eagle into the wild and this is one experience I will never forget and consider myself blessed to have been a part of.

Coverage and updates on the release can be found at and

Fly Free HB5 Fly Free

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