Birds grow so quickly that even just a two or three-day head start can make a significant difference, said Rebecca Jaramillo, director of Glen Helen Raptor Center.
“Aero, who is the older one, was always the first one to get the food and take the majority of the nest space,” she said. “Prairie was always put a little bit into the corner and didn’t have the nest space to really exercise and build up strength before he came out of the nest.”
For 12-days the young bald eagle exercised and gained confidence flying in a 150-foot L-shaped flight enclosure at the raptor center.
“In the beginning, he would stand and look and was very hesitant to fly. After a couple days, he realized ‘I can actually do this,’” Jaramillo said.
Glen Helen Raptor Center in Yellow Springs was founded nearly 50-years ago and focuses on wildlife rehabilitation and education. Each year, the center takes in 200 birds – raptors and vultures – who are sick, injured or orphaned. Half of the birds are released back into the wild.
Rebecca Jaramillo, director of the Glen Helen Raptor Center, releases Prairie, a juvenile bald eagle, back into Carillon Historical Park Tuesday morning. The young eagle spent 12-days at the raptor center gaining strength and confidence to fly. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Prairie was loaded into an extra-large pet carrier covered with a sheet and driven back to the park Tuesday morning. The carrier was placed on a picnic table with a view of a wide-open space that Jaramillo and the other eagle experts determined would be the safest spot for release.
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Once she removed the sheet and opened the carrier’s metal door, Jaramillo crouched down beside it. Prairie hopped out onto the picnic table, sat for a moment and then spread its 6½ foot wings and flew, circling the trees and landing in a tall cottonwood, one of its favorite perches.
“The fact that he is back in the tree that he was familiar with before, that’s a wonderful thing,” Weller said. “I’m so excited. You’re always a little apprehensive because they have been in captivity awhile, and it’s their first taste of outdoors again.”
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Jaramillo is confident the eagle family will reunite in the park. “Birds are really good parents, and they will take him back right away,” she said. “As soon as mom and dad see that he is here or the minute he starts calling out for food, they will come right back to him and start caring for him immediately.”
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Jaramillo said it’s remarkable that Orv and Willa are living and raising their young for the second year in Carillon Historical Park. “Eagles have gotten more and more common in Ohio over the past 20-years, but they still tend to be fairly secretive,” she said. “It’s a really special thing to be able to see them.”