Alabama Wildlife Center debuts American bald eagle

Alabama Wildlife Center debuts American bald eagle
Shelby, the newest education ambassador at the Alabama Wildlife Center. (Erin Harney / Alabama NewsCenter)

Shelby County just received a new namesake, Shelby, an American bald eagle now on display at the Alabama Wildlife Center (AWC) in Oak Mountain State Park.

The new eagle, and a Eurasian eagle owl – the largest owl species in the world (cousin to Alabama’s great horned owl) – now reside in a state-of-the-art raptor enclosure, called a mew, on the grounds of the facility.

“This has been a momentous day for us, we have waited for so long, for the partnerships to band together,” AWC board chairman Linda Miller said during the Dec. 15 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the mew.

The Alabama Wildlife Center is Alabama’s oldest and largest wildlife rehabilitation, conservation and education center. Founded in 1977, the center has grown to care for almost 2,000 injured or orphaned wild birds each year, from over 100 different species.

“This has been a process of a couple of years for the AWC to get to the point where we are today,” said Doug Adair, AWC executive director. “To be able to add this beautiful bald eagle to our education program … is a wonderful keystone of the progress we’ve been able to make.”

The education ambassadors, including Shelby, have been injured in some way that have made them unable to be released back into the wild. In Shelby’s case, she was hit by a car in Washington state, and even with rehabilitation, is not able to survive on her own in the wild.

Because Shelby is a bald eagle, the process of acquiring her for the center was extensive, with a national registry of organizations seeking the opportunity to house an eagle. “We started

working with her veterinarian in Oregon and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) over a year and a half ago,” said Adair.

The USFWS mandated the basic design specifications for the new mew, but the AWC and its partner organizations, exceeded the guidelines to provide a more spacious permanent home for the raptors.
Work at the center will continue in 2019, with the addition of interpretive signs to the new enclosure, new exhibits, upgrades to the facilities, distance learning initiatives, and video streaming of the enclosures, so that Shelby can be shared worldwide.

Over the next few years, visitors and online viewers will be able to see Shelby change from her juvenile plumage with brown and white mottled feathers to the characteristic white head and brown body of a full-grown bald eagle.

“While the work continues, we wanted to go ahead and have the ribbon-cutting today, because the eagle enclosure is ready for occupancy,” said Adair. “We wanted to get her into her new space, so visitors could enjoy this beautiful animal … a result of partnerships with great organizations and great people.”

Organizations involved with this project include: the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Oak Mountain State Park, the Shelby County Commission, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Alabama Power Foundation, EBSCO International, the Mike and Gillian Goodrich Foundation, the Holley Family Foundation, Fishman Services LLC, Pelham City Council, and a number of members of the congressional delegation.

The AWC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that receives no state or federal operating funding. The center is supported primarily through membership dues, individual and corporate donations, and grants.

To learn more about how you can get involved at the wildlife center through volunteering, joining as a member, or donating money or supplies, visit, call 205-663-7930, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter (@ALWildlifeCtr ) and Instagram (@alabamawildlifecenter).

The AWC is in Oak Mountain State Park and is open every day of the year. Admission to the center is free; however, the park has an entrance fee: adults (age 12+) $5; children 6 to 11 $2 (children 5 and under free); and senior citizens 62+ $2.


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