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.