Saturday, November 12, 2011

An Eyewitness Account of the Release of Bald Eagles at Starved Rock Park Today!

Just got home from the release of the juvenile bald eagles at Starved Rock. I am not much for guesstimating crowds but I would imagine there were close to seven hundred people there, plus or minus a couple hundred.

It began with some presentations by Dawn Keller (who told the whole story about the bald eagle rescue and rehabilitation), the Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Marc Miller (the top dog) and a number of education birds from Flint Creek were brought out one at a time and discussed. It was a great photo op for the assembled people as well as an education as they learned about the different birds and how they ended up at Flint Creek.

Then it was time for the release. The crowd went to the shore of the Illinois River across from Plum Island. Plum Island is an island in the middle of the Illinois River where the bald eagles congregate during the late fall/winter. This is because there is a dam just a bit further down the river and the river does not freeze in that area so they can essentially get fish all winter (or so I was told...makes sense). They picked this particular time for the release because this was when the bald eagles start congregating. (I do hope I related the details can do further fact checking at the Flint Creek web site.)

Anyway, Dawn, her husband Phil, some Flint Creek volunteers and some media people (even an AP videographer was there) took some boats to the island. There the birds were taken off the boats in their carriers and placed on the beach. Dawn took the first one out and then released him to resounding applause and cheering from the assembled multitude lining the opposite river bank. The eaglet took flight and suddenly turned and looked like he was going to fly over the river to where the people were watching and several exclaimed that he was going to do a flyover. Unfortunately, he then turned abruptly and skirted the shore of the island and landed on the riverbank several hundred yards up river. He began rooting around on the ground and then eventually walked deeper into the island and we lost sight of him.

The other male eaglet was released, took flight and immediately turned and went back over the central portion of the island and was almost instantly out of sight...a bit more modest apparently. The crowd was very excited by this amazing experience.

Following the release everyone returned and were treated to a meet and greet with the education birds. Dawn then brought out "Journey," a hawk that was caught in the front of a freight train from Canada, until it was discovered in a rail yard in Franklin Park. Journey is now an education bird for Flint Creek.

In addition to being a wonderful experience this was also a fundraiser for Flint Creek to help cover expenses (it cost $20,000) to build the flight chamber for the eagles which was 100 feet long. Feel free to donate to Flint Creek. Contact them at or for further details: visit or call (888)FLINTCREEK

I took a video of the releases which I will edit so watch for it. But I have to let you know, Phil is a professional photographer so keep checking the Flint Creek site for his photos and the video they took. Mine will be a pale imitation of theirs but as it is from a different perspective it may turn out pretty good. I hope to have it up by Monday.

Also a great big shout out to the clients/friends of Niles Animal Hospital who turned out in large numbers for this event. It did my heart good to see such stalwart support and I know Dawn/Phil were very thankful as well. It was a outstanding experience for all who participated today!


  1. This is wonderful. I had hoped to be able to go to this but had a funeral to attend instead :(

  2. I posted some photos from the event on our hospital facebook page, "Niles Animal Hospital and Bird Medical Center." Now to work on the video....