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Riverbanks Spreads its Wings with New Bald Eagle Exhibit

For Immediate Release: February 15, 2012

National Bird on Display in Time for Presidents’ Day

[Columbia, SC] — Celebrate Presidents’ Day with a visit to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden and be among the first to see the Zoo’s newest resident—a female bald eagle.

The young bird and national symbol of the United States came to Riverbanks on December 5, 2011, from Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Delaware.

"Riverbanks acquired this particular bald eagle after it was determined the bird would not be able to survive on its own in the wild,” said Martin Vince, curator of birds at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden.

Tri-State veterinarians had been caring for the now one-year-old eagle after she was discovered near-death in a roadside ditch last spring. Exams taken upon arrival at the facility showed old shoulder fractures, which are believed to have prevented the bird from hunting successfully, leading to her gradual decline.

"This bird’s survival story is really a metaphor for the species as a whole,” Vince said. "Once endangered and near extinction, the bald eagle population now numbers 10,000 pairs nationally.”

Of that, about 250 pairs can be found in the wild in South Carolina—many in coastal areas. There are also about 200 bald eagles in AZA-accredited zoos nationwide, but they are not commonly found in captivity due to strict federal laws protecting this species of bird.

Bald eagles can live up to 25 years in the wild and well over 35 years in zoos. Their plumage is mainly brown until the birds reach adulthood—at about five years old—at which point they get their characteristic white head. Bald eagles get their name from an older meaning of the word bald, "white headed.”

This is the second bald eagle exhibit at Riverbanks. The Zoo was previously home to a pair of male bald eagles from 1979 until 1998.

Guests visiting the Zoo will have an opportunity to see this remarkable bird on exhibit daily beginning this Friday, February 17. The bald eagle will be on display adjacent to Riverbanks’ grizzly bear exhibit.