Iowa Tribe opens one of a kind bald eagle aviary

Thursday, January 12th 2006, 10:17 am
By: News On 6

Going inside a new rare eagle sanctuary in Oklahoma.

In 2001, News on 6 anchor Scott Thompson visited a flight cage in Zuni, New Mexico, where the Zuni Indian tribe is caring for injured eagles and hawks that would have otherwise been put to death.

Until Thursday, that Zuni Aviary was the only one like it in the United States. Now, there are two.

The newest, inspired a News on 6 story, opened Thursday in Perkins in Lincoln County. It belongs to the Iowa Tribe.

A nameless bald eagle is the first bird to call the Iowa flight cage home. It's a special day, for a very special project. Injured, non-releasable raptors like eagles, hawks and owls will be kept here and the feathers they molt will be used by the tribe for their religious and ceremonial value.

And injured birds that can be nursed back to health will also find a place here. John Antonio, Fish and Wildlife Service tribal liaison: "These eagles will eventually be released back into the wild, so this is the first tribal rehab center in the whole country."

One eagle at the center is less than three years old and it doesn't have the distinctive white head feathers yet. For him, the journey to the Iowa's cage began near Tahlequah. He was shot, the bones in his wing shattered. Broken Arrow wildlife rehabilitator Gary Siftar has been nursing him back to health. "And this is the great thing about this facility, they'll continue to rehab it, and at some point in a week, three weeks, or three months it's releasable, they'll release it. And if not, they'll give it a permanent home."

It's a home the Iowa Tribe is proud of, for a bird they respect even more and hopefully, an example of many eagle rescues to come.

The eagle released into the flight cage Thursday is just the first of many.