Colorado Division of Wildlife News article
On the Wings of Freedom-A Colorado Reunion
First part by Terry Hill
I looked into the sky and pointed out the bird to Ron, a
hitchhiker I had picked up. “Its either a hawk or an eagle” I told him. The bird, circling about 300 yards above the road, broke out of a glide, tucked its wings and flew toward some prey unseen by us.
Suddenly, our awe changed to horror as we saw the bird
heading straight for a collision course with a motorhome that had just
passed. My heart skipped a beat as the majestic bird careened off
the vehicle, falling in disjointed, wretched somersaults into a ditch.
I pulled the car over, jumped out and slowly approached the fallen
It was a female eagle, a mature Golden.
She was lying motionless on her back. Her talons, the size of my fist,
were pointed to the sky. I knelt to the bird’s side, cradled her head,
stroked her breast and silently prayed for her spirit. Her eyes looked at me full of confusion, pain and fear. A
minute ago her sharp eyes were focused on her prey and now she was
ripped out of the sky, in shock, with the hands of s man touching her
for the first time in her life. I remembered the time I had cradled a tufted-ear squirrel that
my sister hit with her car. I’d watched the life flow out of it and
laid it beside a tree.
But the eagle’s eyes were not glazing over. She struggled. I
watched as as she half–flapped half–walked, dragging her damaged wing a
few feet. I’m sure my eyes lit up, for I realized then that she had not
received a fatal blow to her body, but had only been grazed on the
wing. She might live to fly again, I thought. I removed my jacket and
handed it to Ron, who spread it on the ground. I gently folded the
injured bird’s wings against her body and firmly gripped her massive
claws, knowing they could rip my arms to shreds if she struggled. I
talked to her, soothingly, as I wrapped her in the jacket. Then I
climbed into the passenger seat, careful not to catch her tail feathers
in the door.
As we drove, the eagle must have known my good intentions
because she struggled only slightly then she rested her beak against my
arm. I called Jim Liewer, the district wildlife manager. The
injured eagle was placed in a box for protection and Jim drove her to a
veterinarian in Granby. The vet took x-rays, discovered no breaks and
later that evening contacted Sigrid Ueblacker at the Birds of Prey
Rehabilitation Foundation in Broomfield. A volunteer from the
foundation drove to Granby and transported the eagle top Broomfield.
That day, August 23, 1987, Sigrid began nursing ands rehabilitating the
bird. The bird was in shock and had suffered pulled muscles and bruises
from the collision, but had escaped external injuries. After providing
food and water, Sigrid left the bird alone for an hour, then carried
her to an outside hospital cage to stretch her wings and walk around.
Ten days passed until the eagle bathed herself, a sign of
recovery. She was taken to a flight cage to have her flight evaluated.
On September 17, three weeks later—on a stretch of I=70 West near
Granby, Sigrid, two other persons ands myself witnessed these
This part written by Sigrid Ueblacker, Raptor Rehabilitator
I call golden eagles the gentle giants. As powerful as
they are, when handled with respect, they willingly submit to out care
without and argument.
This eagle, the one Terry brought in, was more than that.
She was docile, with gentle brown eyes that seemed to understand the
good will of human help. One would never have guessed the power and
grace this lovely bird would display at the time of her release.
She never had a name. Her stay was too short, too
uneventful. It was her departure that made her so special and since it
was Terry who had card enough to stop his car in the beginning, Terry
who helped her to live, and Terry who was to witness her beautiful
release back to her home, I called her “Terry’s Eagle”.
I cared for Terry’s eagle for three weeks and gave her the
rest and peace she needed after her accident. She regained her health
and I determined the day of her release. Often I wonder if birds know what our plans are; if they
sense our clumsy attempts to communicate with them. When I placed her
in the traveling carrier, my thoughts traveled to her home, her mate,
with the wish that they will live their life there in freedom, raise
their family each year and have no more encounters with human
Her journey to her homeland began. She never tried to
bite, never fought for her rights even minutes before her liberation.
Gently and quietly I places her on the ground. I had given her time to
look around, and, for just a moment, I felt that she knew the mountains
and hills – that she recognized her home.
She flew away, caught the thermal and with slow,
deliberate wingbeats she worked herself up into the sky. She was
the image of power, grace and beauty as she left. Soon she landed on a hill, most likely to rest. Her large,
dark body was clearly visible. We heard her call, or sing, as thought
announcing to the world and to the male eagle that had been looking for
his lady for the past three weeks. I remembered a large eagle flying
off a powerline at our arrival. Was it her mate?
Eagles pair for life and they have been known to occupy the same
territory for decades. Could we be fortunate enough to observe their
reunion? I knew from experience that in the past weeks he would have
been searching the sky in hopes of finding her. And then, he appeared. He came from nowhere, answered her
call and landed next to her on the ground. They didn’t mind sharing
with us the unforgettable joy of reuniting.
Terry’s eagle flew high into the sky, then folded her
wings and dove towards the ground at an incredible speed. Shortly
before she reached the ground, she lifted herself and repeated her
breathtaking, daring flight.
Her mate joined her in this dance above the
mountains and hills of their home, the wild—the untouched beauty of
Colorado earth that is meant for eagles and hawks to soar eternally.
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