Archive: Bald Eagle Injured in Summer Windstorm Survives, Thrives at Detroit Zoo

Detroit Zoological Society provides sanctuary to another bald eagle

April 18, 2018

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

A female bald eagle has found a new home at the Detroit Zoo after sustaining an injury that prevents her release back into the wild.  The 1-year-old bird suffered an injury to her right wing when a strong windstorm in June 2017 felled the tree on Harsens Island that held her nest.

Harsen – named after the island – was rescued by Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers and taken to Michigan State University’s veterinary hospital for surgery and rehabilitation.  The eagle arrived at the Detroit Zoo in late December.

“Despite her injury, Harsen is healthy and energetic.  We are happy to provide a habitat where she can be with other eagles and receive the care she needs,” said Scott Carter, chief life sciences officer for the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS).

Harsen joins two rescued male bald eagles, Flash and Mr. America, in their American Grasslands habitat.  She is the second rescued bald eagle to find sanctuary at the Detroit Zoo in the past six months.  Mr. America arrived in mid-November from southern Indiana after a wing injury rendered him non-releasable.  Flash came to the Zoo in 2009 after sustaining a wing injury on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

Detroit Zoo visitors can identify the newcomer by her completely brown head.  Bald eagles do not grow their top white feathers until between the ages of 5 and 6.  Though Harsen is the youngest bird in the habitat, at roughly 8 pounds, she already outweighs one of the males.

“Female bald eagles tend to be bigger and more assertive than males, so she might just become the ‘boss’ of that habitat,” said Carter.

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) earns its name from the Old English word “balde”, meaning white, referencing the distinctive white feathers covering the head and tail.  Bald eagles use their feathers to balance – when they lose a feather on one wing, they will also lose a matching feather on the other side.

The DZS has a long history of rescuing wildlife, and frequently provides sanctuary to exotic animals that are injured, abandoned, surrendered or confiscated.