When is Challenger’s Birthday?”

You have probably heard about Challenger.  He is a non-releasable Bald Eagle cared for by the non-profit American Eagle Foundation (AEF).  He was blown from his Louisiana nest in a storm in 1989, when 3-5  weeks of age.  He was rescued and hand-fed by well-meaning people.  As a result, he never learned to fish for himself and cannot survive in the wild.  Since at least 1996, Challenger has free-flown at major events around the country, such as at five World Series games and the National Capitol.  His image is on a Tennessee specialty license plate.  No other specific animal has had his image placed on a Coin minted by the U.S. Mint.

Challenger’s rescuers transferred Challenger to the Audubon Zoo of New Orleans.  According to the records of the Alabama biologists, they picked up Challenger at the Audubon Zoo on June 8, 1989, when they estimated his age at eight weeks.  They delivered him to near Scottsboro, Alabama for hacking and later release on Guntersville Lake when first capable of flight at 12-13 weeks age.

Since Challenger was approximately eight weeks age on June 8, 1989, he had been hatched about April 13, 1989.  Challenger therefore celebrates his 22nd birthday on or very near April 13, 2011.

Bald eagles have been documented to live to about 30 years in the wild.  They have lived over 50 years in captivity, where they have good veterinary care.  We therefore hope that Challenger can celebrate at least several more birthdays as a free-flying ambassador of his species.






About Bob Hatcher

Primary Blog Contributor, Eagles.org American Eagle Foundation
This entry was posted in Challenger, AEF Free-Flying Bald Eagle, Eagle Coins & Eagle Gifts, Life History, Biology, & Behavior, Propagation/Hacking/Releases, Rehabilitation. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to When is Challenger’s Birthday?”

  1. Hello,

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    • Bob Hatcher says:

      Thanks for asking about my professional background, and how it led to work with eagles. Beginning at about age 12, I was permanently impressed by the Edward Bok philosophy of “Leaving this world cleaner and better than we found it”.

      Eagles weren’t a part of the first 18 years of my professional career, but became my primary interest and focus for the last 32 years.

      I came from a humble farm background, and ironically graduated from Eagleville High School of Middle Tennessee. I played on the Eagleville Eagles basketball team. Other education included a BS in Biology from Middle Tennessee State University in 1960. That was followed by a MS in Fisheries Biology at Alabama’s Auburn University (ironically called “War Eagles”) in 1962.

      Steps in my 50-year+ professional career have included:
      1. 1960: Summer Biological Aid in Fisheries with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA);
      2. 1962-63: District Fisheries Biologist in Alabama;
      3. 1963-66: Return to TWRA as Supervisor of Tennessee’s State Lakes, remaining with TWRA until retiring in 2001.
      4. 1966-72: Supervisor of Fish Management Services, supervising 8 District Fisheries Biologists and one Statewide Pollution Biologist;
      5. 1972-1978: Environmental Planner (statewide) and Administrative Coordinator to TWRA Director;
      6. 1978-2001: Nongame & Endangered Wildlife Coordinator, TWRA, with responsibility for protection and management of about 1,200 wildlife species not ordinarily utilized for hunting or sport fishing. That included restoration of several rare species. It included release of 284 young bald eagles from 7 Tennessee hack sites during 1980-2000 to help restore natural nesting, which had disappeared in Tennessee from 1961 to 1983. Bald Eagles therefore became the primary focus of all those restoration efforts, also leading to the formation of the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) in 1985. Several key partnerships helped overcome relatively low funds for restoration of several rare aquatic and terrestrial species.
      7. 2001-2012 (and counting): AEF Eagle Consultant/Correspondent/Grants Coordinator/Eagle Blog Editor. More information about our eagle work at AEF can be found at wwww.eagles.org. See “What is the AEF” and “AEF’s Programs and Activities”. Since 1980, Tennessee has released 344 young Bald Eagles to restore natural nesting in Tennessee and the region. That includes 119 bald eagles released by AEF in East Tennessee.

      I hope that this will also help you realize there are also opportunities for you and other young people to “leave this world cleaner and better than you found it”.

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