Starbuck, a young bald eagle, was so weak when she initially came to the Wildlife Images Rehabilitation Center in Oregon in April of last year that it wasn’t known if she would survive. The eaglet had little hope of living a normal life after being orphaned at the age of only a few days.
Fortunately, she didn’t have to go too long without the love and care of her two adoring parents.
The center’s resident bald eagles, Squeaky and Haggis, were far better suited to nurture Starbuck once care professionals had successfully stabilized her and fed her until she reached a healthy weight.
The staff wasn’t sure at first how the adult eagle pair would react to the new arrival, but any doubts they may have had were soon quelled. Although Starbuck’s foster parents have spent most of their lives in captivity, deemed unfit to return to the wild themselves, they embraced the young bird as if she were their very own.
“Success was celebrated by the staff when the foster parents were observed feeding Starbuck to abundance,” writes WIRC.
That “abundance” quickly showed. Over the months that followed, Starbuck grew and grew …
Starbuck developed into a stunning, fully-grown bald eagle after six months of being cared for and shielded by her foster parents. The best part was that she was now able to live a life that her foster parents cannot since she was raised by two birds that were similar to herself in a way that mimicked a natural environment.
On Wednesday, Starbuck bid farewell to Squeaky and Haggis and was driven nearby to the place where she had been found half-a-year earlier and then released, ending one chapter to begin another.
“We are overjoyed that this beautiful animal will get another chance at life in the wild, and are honored we were able to lend a helping hand,” says Tracy Higgs, Animal Care Team Leader.
“Starbuck’s difficult start in life and series of adventures thereafter will make this release one of our most memorable. It has been an honor serving an animal like Starbuck, we are humbled by this experience.”
In time, Starbuck’s head feathers will whiten with age, and she may very well go on to start a family of her own – a whole new generation whose existence will be owed to Squeaky and Haggis, and all the other folks who helped her on her way.
The future of this bird and her whole species are both brightening. Due to the extensive use of the now-banned chemical DDT, which infiltrated into their food chain, bald eagles were pushed to nearly extinction in the United States last century, down to only a few hundred individuals.
Bald eagle populations have subsequently rebounded thanks to persistent attempts to stop the decrease, but each one of them, like Starbuck, is still deserving of protection.