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American Eagle Day at Radnor Lake

To celebrate American Eagle Day on June 20, Radnor Lake State Park hosted free tours of its aviary. The Nashville park is home to the Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center where park staff care for American bald eagles and other birds of prey. (1)


A small wooden cabin sits among trees behind a plant-lined sidewalk at Radnor Lake State Park in Tennessee
Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center

On American Eagle Day, we honor the American bald eagle and remember the anniversary of our country adopting it as a symbol of our nation. (2) The Continental Congress approved the Great Seal of the United States featuring an eagle on June 20, 1782. (3)


American Eagle Day has Tennessee roots. (4) The American Eagle Foundation, a Tennessee nonprofit organization working to protect all birds of prey including bald eagles, secured proclamations in 1995 from former President Clinton and former Tennessee Governor Sundquist designating a day to honor these birds. (5) This initiative has spread nationwide, and the American Eagle Foundation renews its efforts every year to secure proclamations from state governors designating June 20 as American Eagle Day. (6)


Even though the American bald eagle is our national symbol, we almost lost the species. (7) They were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act but through conservation efforts were able to be removed from this list in 2007. (8)


I joined Radnor’s American Eagle Day celebrations and attended the first of two sold-out tours. I had never visited the Education Center before and was glad to finally see it. This Center houses the Ann Tarbell Library with resources about birds. (9)


It’s also home to non-winged creatures. I saw red-eared slider turtles, yellow-bellied slider turtles, a timber rattlesnake, and a corn snake. A ranger explained that the corn snake got its name because it likes to live in corn fields to eat the mice that are attracted to the crop; she also explained that the markings on the snake’s belly make it look like an ear of corn. (10)


Clockwise from top left: Snake and turtle tanks in the Barbara J. Mapp Avian Education Center; turtles; ranger with corn snake; timber rattlesnake


Park Manager Steve Ward led us on a tour of the aviary’s 550-foot boardwalk to visit the birds of prey. (11) Ranger Ward explained that all of the birds had been injured and couldn’t be returned to the wild. (12) He said that the staff works hard to minimize stress to the birds, and the birds can choose to participate in visits by the public. One of the bald eagles can signal that she does not want to participate by flying to the ground twice. (13) The staff has not named the birds as they feel that would indicate they owned them. Instead, they have assigned each bird a number. (14)


We first got to see a red-tailed hawk, and I couldn’t believe how close we were to the bird. This hawk injured her wing and was treated at Walden’s Puddle, a Middle Tennessee wildlife rehabilitation center, before arriving at Radnor. (15)



Next, Ranger Ward showed us the Center’s Golden Eagle. Ranger Ward said he and this eagle would retire together; she is 21 years old. Because she is blind in her left eye, she could not survive in the wild. Originally from California, her favorite foods are quail and rats, and she enjoys a shower in her enclosure every day and after each visit which we got to see. This bird was so talkative! (16)


A park ranger stands next to a brown-feathered Golden Eagle on a perch in front of an enclosure in Radnor Lake State Park in Tennessee
Ranger Ward and a Golden Eagle

Next, we saw two bald eagles in a large enclosure. The female couldn’t fly because she had once broken her left wing, and the male suffered from arthritis after breaking his femur. These birds are from Middle and East Tennessee. (17)


While those eagles stayed in their enclosure, we got to see a bald eagle up close when Ranger Ward took bald eagle number two out of her enclosure. She had been shot in East Tennessee, and while wildlife professionals had removed all of the lead shot they could, they couldn’t get to it all. Right before she was set to be released back to the wild, she suffered a seizure because of the lead content in her blood. (Read about the danger of lead for bald eagles here.) Instead of being released, she needed a permanent home and arrived at Radnor in November 2016 as a one-year-old. She’s never had a seizure at the park, and she has her blood tested twice a year. We also got to see this eagle enjoy her post-visit shower. (18)


A bald eagle sits on a park ranger's gloved arm in front of an enclosure at Radnor Lake State Park in Tennessee
Ranger Ward and a bald eagle

Even though the weather didn’t cooperate - it rained the whole time - the park staff put on a wonderful presentation. We got to see so many animals up close. If you’d like to visit the Center and the birds, including a black vulture and a great horned owl, the park hosts an open house at the Center every Wednesday from 10:00 to 1:00. (19) Maybe I’ll see you out there!

 
  1. June 20, 2023 tour of Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center and Boardwalk

  2. June 20, 2023 tour of Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center and Boardwalk; https://tnstateparks.com/assets/pdf/additional-content/park-brochures/radnor-lake_brochure-2018.pdf

  3. June 20, 2023 tour of Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center and Boardwalk

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  5. June 20, 2023 tour of Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center and Boardwalk; https://waldenspuddle.org/

  6. June 20, 2023 tour of Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center and Boardwalk

  7. Id.

  8. Id.

June 23, 2023


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