Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory honors the life of Golden Eagle, Aquila

(Aquila | Photo courtesy of Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory)

Early this week Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory (SNCO) staff said goodbye to long-time resident Aquila the Golden Eagle. Aquila first came to the Nature Center in 1984 as the victim of a car strike. The accident left her with only a fraction of her eyesight and unable to survive in the wild.

Aquila spent the rest of her life in human care. She traveled to classrooms, nature festivals, and into communities throughout Central Oregon and the western United States allowing hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to meet and learn about Golden Eagles.

In her habitat, she was an active participant in the daily happenings of the Nature Center. Aquila had a soft greeting call for caretakers she recognized. She loved to splash about in her bath pan and preen her enormous feathers in the sunshine. In the spring she would turn into a devoted nest builder, and frequently laid several infertile eggs. Visitors were always impressed by her size and patient nature.

Not many Golden Eagles have been observed living longer than 20 years. At over 40 years old Aquila had more than doubled her life expectancy and she was closely monitored by her care team and local veterinarians. She began a sharp decline at the beginning of the year and peacefully passed away on Friday, January 26th.  Due to the sacred nature of Golden Eagles to indigenous people, her remains will be sent to the National Eagle Repository, which oversees the Native American Eagle Feather Program.

Aquila left an indelible legacy to anyone who had the opportunity to meet her. Hopefully, the messages that she helped convey, such as slowing down around roadkill, or the damaging effects of lead poisoning, will help wild populations of Golden Eagles across the country.

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