The Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo will hold a birthday celebration Thursday for “Mrs. B,” the resident Bald Eagle.
The celebration will run from 9 a.m. to noon on July 4 with zookeeper chats every hour.
Cupcakes for humans will be provided by The Great Bend Zoological Society. Mrs. B’s animal neighbors will also celebrate with special treats.
“Mrs. B has been here for nearly 40 years,” said Zookeeper Ashley Burdick. “She came in as a rehab case with an injury to her foot. Eagles rely greatly on their feet for hunting prey so she was deemed non-releasable and transferred to the zoo collection.”
The name “Bald Eagle” actually comes from the Old English word “piebald” which means “white-headed” rather than hairless.
“In the wild, Bald Eagles typically live around 20 years and the oldest held in captivity was 50 years old,” Burdick said. “Back in 1940 the species was threatened with extinction and the Bald Eagle Protection Act was passed.”
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology notes: “The the Bald Eagle has been the national emblem of the United States since 1782 and a spiritual symbol for native people for far longer than that. These regal birds aren’t really bald, but their white-feathered heads gleam in contrast to their chocolate-brown body and wings. Look for them soaring in solitude, chasing other birds for their food, or gathering by the hundreds in winter.”
Bald Eagles became an endangered species due to hunting and pesticides such as DDT in the 1960s and 1970s but DDT use was heavily restricted in 1972. Since then the species has made a comeback and they have flourished under protection.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has upgraded the birds from endangered to least concern.
Pam Martin at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center notes that Bald Eagles are regularly sighted at Cheyenne Bottoms, especially in the winter months. “I regularly saw a mature Bald Eagle south of U.S. 56/K-96 during the spring months,” she said, adding there has been a nesting pair in the area for several years now.