Bald eagles are the most revered birds in the nation, a symbol of American strength and freedom around the world.



Pittsburg is home to one bald eagle — Aurora, prized exhibit at the Pittsburg State University Natural History Reserve. She doesn’t have the freedom of the skies because she would be unable to survive in the wild.

Bald eagles are the most revered birds in the nation, a symbol of American strength and freedom around the world.

Pittsburg is home to one bald eagle — Aurora, prized exhibit at the Pittsburg State University Natural History Reserve. She doesn’t have the freedom of the skies because she would be unable to survive in the wild.

“Aurora started the Raptor Reach part of our program in 1985,” said Delia Lister, Nature Reach director. “She came to us from Montana, where she flew into power lines and broke her left wing.”

She explained that if a bird suffers a broken bone, repairing it is like trying to fuse two pipes together perfectly. It’s very difficult and has to be done within a few hours of the injury. Otherwise, the damage is permanent.

Aurora was not lucky enough to get immediate care. The tip of her injured wing had to be amputated, and she holds that wing at a slight droop.

For many years Aurora was a popular feature at Nature Reach programs around the area, but now those who want to see this national treasure have to come to her.

“Now she gets agitated when she’s around people, so she doesn’t travel any more,” Lister said. “The last time she was taken out, by a previous director of the program, she got highly stressed, so the decision was made for her to be a display bird only.”

Aurora tolerates Natural History Reserve staff members, but can still put up a fuss when she wants to.

“It takes at  least three people to hold her if we need to give her a vaccination,” Lister said. “When West Nile fever was a big deal, we had to vaccinate all our birds. Fortunately, it’s hasn’t been such a big deal the past couple of years.”

The normal lifespan of a bald eagle in the wild is around 30 years, and staff members estimate that Aurora is around 29. However, captive eagles have been known to live as long as 50 years.

“Aurora does have a cataract in one eye, but seems to be in good health otherwise,” Lister said.

Birds at the Natural History Reserve are fed rats and day-old chicks. Lister said that Aurora’s favorite food is road-kill squirrel. “You have to have a salvage permit to pick up roadkill, and I and some of the others here do have permits,” Lister said. “We all have baggies in our trunks to pick up things up.”

In the wild, bald eagles primarily eat fish, and Aurora gets some of those, too.

“She prefers carp over trout,” Lister said. “She really likes her fish fresh, so sometimes I fish off the dock for her, but that’s an extra special treat.”

Area youngsters will have a chance to visit Aurora and the other raptors at the Natural History Reserve during a camp planned from 8 a.m. to noon July 20-24. “It’s for those who have completed fifth grade and are going into sixth grade,” Lister said. “We want kids to come who are interested in animals and enjoy being outdoors.”

Each day will have a theme, including birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians, plants and mammals.

“For mammals we’ll have a ‘Game Scene Investigation’ activity, and for the plant day we’ll talk about where food comes from,” Lister said. “If my garden is growing, the kids will be able to pick tomatoes off the vine. We’ll also have a snack every day.”

Camp will be limited to 12 youngsters, so early registration is suggested. Anyone needing additional information may contact Lister at 235-4727.