SOLON– There was a notable gasp when the box was opened.
It was an ordinary looking cardboard box, but the contents were anything but.
A staff member from the Macbride Raptor Center carefully removed a mature bald eagle from the box.
The eagle, at least five years in age, came to the Raptor Center in April from Jackson County, where it was discovered in a malnourished state. According to Raptor Center Director Jodeane Cancilla, the eagle had suffered a broken wing which had already healed, but which had prevented it from hunting.
The emaciated eagle was kept in the Raptor Center’s intensive care clinic on the Kirkwood Community College campus in Cedar Rapids to recover from its injuries, and then transferred to the Macbride Nature Recreation Area for more rehabilitation.
The bald eagle has been free flying in a flight cage at the Raptor Center and built up enough strength and flight ability to be released.
And that’s what brought hundreds to the Bluestem Shelter at Macbride recreation area Thursday.
Parents and students from Lucas Elementary in Iowa City, and representatives from the 2011 Big Ten Recreational Sports Conference watched as University of Iowa Recreational Services Director Harry Ostrander released the eagle back into the wild.
Covered with handler’s garb, Ostrander held the eagle as staff removed a hood from its head, and struggled to control the 8-pound bird as it reacted nervously to the crowd.
“This won’t take long,” Ostrander said as he tried to maintain his grip.
After a few moments for the crowd to take photos, Ostrander turned away from and released the impatient eagle.
Without hesitation, the eagle flapped its wings and took flight, swooping low across the grassy field before gaining altitude and disappearing over the treetops to the delight of children and adults alike.
The Macbride Raptor Project (MRP), founded in 1985, is devoted to preserving Iowa’s birds of prey and their natural habitats. The project achieves its goals through rehabilitation of sick and injured birds, educational programs for the public and field research of Iowa’s native raptors.
The Macbride Raptor Project (MRP) is a jointly sponsored oranization, utilizing staff and facilities at both The University of Iowa’s Division of Recreational Services and Kirkwood Community College.
Several species of permanently disabled hawks, eagles, falcons and owls are displayed at the Raptor Project, which overlooks the Iowa River. Tours must be pre-arranged by calling (319) 398-5495. Individuals interested in programs, volunteering for the Raptor Project or needing to report an injured raptor can contact the Macbride Raptor Project at (319) 398-5495.